Defend & Attack: Trinamool Congress' Two-Pronged Approach to Corruption Charges
The party advocates a "no tolerance towards corruption" policy, while also attacking central agencies.
The Quint DAILY
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The All-India Trinamool Congress has had a long and complicated love affair with corruption allegations right from its hay days. From the alleged Saradha corruption scam to the cattle smuggling scam, their decade-long rule in West Bengal has been riddled with allegations of corruption.
Since national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee took on a more integral role in the party, he has constantly advocated a "no tolerance towards corruption policy” in the Trinamool. The recent events have prompted Banerjee and almost everyone else to advocate for the same.
However, the recovery of almost Rs. 50 crores in cash from TMC MLA Partha Chatterjee’s close aide Arpita Mukherjee’s residence in connection with the alleged ‘SSC Scam’ sent shockwaves not only across the state, but also across the rank and file of the party. Before the wounds healed, strongman Anubrata Mondal too was arrested in connection with the alleged cross-border cattle smuggling scam.
These arrests have prompted the party, especially WB CM Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee, to take a more proactive approach to the issue of corruption.
Defend and Attack
Partha Chatterjee’s arrest while initially saw a textbook "innocent until proven guilty" response from the party, the recovery of scores of cash and the images of them spreading like wildfire over the media, coerced the leadership to suspend him from the party and sack him from positions in the Bengal cabinet.
Prior to this the party had stood by all its leaders who were accused in corruption scams, calling them a political conspiracy.
Abhishek Banerjee, while announcing the suspension, reiterated their no-tolerance approach toward corruption and said that the law will take its own course. Meanwhile, Mondal’s arrest did not illicit a similar action from the party. The party leadership, except for Mamata Banerjee, didn’t claim his innocence. They maintained that action will be taken against both the leaders if the law finds them to be guilty.
One might argue that no such action was taken against Mondal because there was no incriminating evidence against him, but the public perception of the party was hampered all the same.
To prove a point, Mamata Banerjee reshuffled the West Bengal cabinet, bringing in fresh faces. Most of the new inductees have so far had a clean image with no charges or allegations against them. The Trinamool even made several changes to their organization in several districts by removing leaders who have allegations against them, from organisational posts and bringing in fresh faces.
The WB government is also trying to revive their "Didi ke Bolo" or grievance call system which they had propagated before the 2021 elections. Abhishek Banerjee has already started a similar system in his Lok Sabha constituency of Diamond Harbour, and the government is trying to implement such a system across the state. They are also trying to implement a more transparent system of transactions where users can keep track of the money they are paying to the government.
But while the party has tried to protect its image by playing defense, that has not stopped them from attacking the Central government and central agencies all out.
On Monday, at the Trinamool Chatra Parishad Foundation Day event, CM Banerjee warned central agencies of “legal action” if they summoned police officers from the state. Recently, the Enforcement Directorate has issued summons to eight IPS officers to Delhi in connection with the coal pilferage scam in the state.
We have corruption cases in West Bengal against the CBI, against the ED, against the BSF and the CRPF. If you call our police officers in New Delhi and do anything, then we will take legal action against the agencies.Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, West Bengal
Mamata Banerjee’s beef with central agencies is a long drawn one, which has only escalated since she came back to power for the third time in the state. The recent arrests of Chatterjee and Mondal have cued Mamata Banerjee to attack them at every possible occasion.
Her sentiments have been echoed by her party too who have maintained that while they want the law to take its own course against the accused, they also claimed that the ED and CBI are working under the behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The party accused the central agencies of not acting against LoP Suvendu Adhikari who is also involved in the Narada sting case. Mamata Banerjee has repeatedly said that the BJP is using the central agencies to break governments in non-BJP ruled states.
After Mondal’s arrest, TMC workers and leaders took to the streets to protest the ‘bias’ of the central agencies. Mamata Banerjee herself asked TMC workers to mobilise and unite, if the central agencies ever came for her.
Recently, ED has summoned Congress President Sonia Gandhi and have arrested Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut in two separate cases. They have also summoned Abhishek Banerjee once again for interrogation in connection with the alleged coal pilferage scam.
However, on Monday, Mamata Banerjee spoke in Partha Chatterjee’s defense for the first time.
Partha chor, Bobby (Firhad Hakim) chor, Anubrata chor, ami chor, Arup, Chandrima Abhishek sobai chor ar tomra sobai sadhu (Partha is thief, Boby (Hakim) is thief, Anubrata is thief, I am thief, Arup, Chandrima, Abhishek all are thieves and you (the BJP) all are saints).Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, West Bengal
She even dared the central agencies, and in turn the BJP to arrest her if they can.
What remains to be seen is which of their strategies will work - their defense or their offense.
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