Trinamool Is Casting Partha Chatterjee As An Outcast To Protect Its Top Leadership From Adverse Disclosures

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Aug 2, 2022 04:38 PM +05:30 IST
Trinamool Is Casting Partha Chatterjee As An Outcast To Protect Its Top Leadership From Adverse DisclosuresPartha Chatterjee
Snapshot
  • Partha Chatterjee’s assertion that the cash and valuables recovered from his ‘close associate’ Arpita Mukherjee’s apartment are not his has triggered apprehension within the Trinamool.

Over the past few months, the Trinamool vociferously denied the blatant anomalies in appointment of thousands of school teachers in Bengal and tried its best to thwart probes by central investigating and prosecuting agencies into the huge scam.

But now, the provincial party is trying its best to not only distance itself from its former secretary-general and virtual number two in the cabinet--Partha Chatterjee--but also to cast him as a villain.

It is clear that the Trinamool now wants to paint its former secretary-general as a ‘bad character’ who broke laws and committed a slew of illegal and immoral acts. The reason: to shield its top leadership from any adverse disclosure by Chatterjee.

The Trinamool’s dread over Chatterjee confessing to his interrogators in the Enforcement Directorate (ED) about involvement of others in the party in the teachers’ recruitment scam has led to the party doing its best to discredit Chatterjee.

Chatterjee was, till last week, extremely close to party supremo Mamata Banerjee and apart from holding charge of important departments like industry, commerce and information technology, was a key functionary in the party. He was the editor of the party mouthpiece Jago Bangla and, ironically, used to head the party’s disciplinary committee.

As such, he was privy to a whole lot of secrets and goings-on in the party. He was also the Trinamool's chief fund-raiser and, thus, has a lot of information that could embarrass the party and even be its nemesis.

Partha Chatterjee’s vehement assertion that the huge mounds of cash and valuables recovered from his ‘close associate’ Arpita Mukherjee’s apartment are not his--he said in Bangla: “amar noi, amar noi, amar noi” (not mine, not mine, not mine)--has triggered apprehension within the Trinamool.

A few senior Trinamool functionaries acknowledge that Chatterjee possesses a lot of ‘inside information’ that could be very damaging to the party. If an angry Chatterjee now spills the beans to the ED, as many are alarmed that he will, the Trinamool and its top leadership will find itself in a tight spot.

The apprehension that Chatterjee may start talking to the ED is based on the party’s action against him. Mamata Banerjee has dropped him from the cabinet and Chatterjee has been removed from all posts in the party.

Chatterjee had, last week, described his party’s, and Mamata Banerjee’s, decisions to drop him from all posts as “injudicious” and “ill-timed”. “He is feeling abandoned by the party and that is natural because he has been associated with the Trinamool since its inception and has been a close aide and confidant of Mamata Banerjee. He feels that the party has betrayed him when he needed the party the most in his hour of crisis,” a very close associate of Chatterjee told Swarajya.

But the Trinamool had no option. “The recovery of huge sums of cash and jewellery, and the daily disclosures about his unaccounted-for wealth in the form of farm houses, apartments and other assets all over the state was causing immense harm to the party and severely denting our party’s image. Those disclosures were also tarnishing the fair name and image of our chief minister. So we were faced with no option but to act against him (Chatterjee),” said a senior functionary of the Trinamool who did not want to be named for obvious reasons.

But Chatterjee has been left dismayed by his party’s actions against him. “Naturally so,” says Opposition leader Suvendu Adhikary who was, till less than two years ago, a senior colleague of Chatterjee.

“It would be naive on anyone’s part to think that Chatterjee made all the money and the others in the party, including the top leadership, knew nothing about it and also did not benefit from the huge (teachers’ recruitment) scam. There is no way that Chatterjee could have kept all the money he made from the scam to himself and not shared it with others in the party,” said Adhikary.

Adhikary’s allegation finds endorsement from many others. In fact, say party insiders, it is a rule that a major share of money made through illegal or extra-legal means has to be given to the party.

A video of senior Trinamool leader and party Rajya Sabha MP, Dola Sen, asking party workers to give 75 per cent of the money collected by them through extortions to the party coffers went viral in July 2018 (read this), putting the Trinamool in a spot. But the party decided to brazen it out and offered no comments, nor did it dissociate itself from Sen.

“What Dola Sen said at that time is very common knowledge. Everyone knows that a major part of the proceeds of all scams and illegal activities goes to the party fund and to the pockets of some very high-ups in the party. A lot of people in the party and government benefited immensely from Chatterjee’s loot--the teacher recruitment scam,” said Suvendu Adhikary.

That is why the Trinamool is fearful of Chatterjee spilling the beans and implicating others. So far, Chatterjee has not done so and is refusing to answer queries from the ED. “But he has made veiled threats that he will start talking, and that will spell disaster for the Trinamool,” said a former Trinamool legislator who is now with the BJP.

The Trinamool is also apprehensive that Chatterjee may crack under sustained interrogation by the ED. “So far, the ED has handled him with kid gloves and not really hauled him over the coals. He has not been subjected to intensive and hours-long interrogations and aggressive cross-examination. The ED may well take him out of Bengal and interrogate him. Once that happens, there is no telling what all he will disclose. Even a partial disclosure about how much money he may have ‘donated’ to party coffers, who all benefited from the scam and who all funded the party, will be disastrous for the party,” a senior Trinamool functionary told Swarajya.

That is why all out efforts are being made to cast Chatterjee in a negative light and portray him as a villain and a ‘crooked lone wolf’ who acted on his own. “The Trinamool’s game plan is to paint Chatterjee as a corrupt and immoral person who acted on his own without anyone in the party knowing about his running the scam. And, hence, the party can then dissociate itself from any damaging disclosures that he makes, at least in public perception,” said the former Trinamool legislator.

A few senior Trinamool functionaries have, since Monday (August 1), been selectively briefing their ‘friends’ in the media about Partha Chatterjee’s lifestyle and activities. The objective is to get articles that damage Chatterjee’s reputation and besmirch his name printed in the media, especially Bangla publications and media outlets.

But this ploy is not likely to work. “Everyone knows that Mamata Banerjee closely monitors the functioning of all her colleagues and keeps a strict watch over them. Everyone knows that state intelligence agencies report to the chief minister about not just the activities of her ministers, MLAs and others in the party, but also bureaucrats and a whole lot of other people. So no one will believe that Partha Chatterjee amassed such a lot of wealth by keeping Mamata Banerjee and others in the party in the dark,” said Suvendu Adhikary.

Opposition parties, which have smelt blood, are now urging Chatterjee to come clean and name all those who are involved in the many scams that are rife in Bengal. Cine idol and BJP leader Mithun Chakraborty pointedly urged Chatterjee last week to spill the beans instead of suffering in prison all by himself.

Partha Chatterjee’s close aides also feel the same way. “Why should he (Chatterjee) suffer alone all by himself? He is not the only one who made money. Everyone in the party did and a lot of the money from the scam went to others in the party and to the party treasury. Since the party has abandoned him in his hour of need, he should not hesitate to name the others,” said a very close aide and neighbour of Chatterjee.

Pressure will pile on Chatterjee not only from his ED interrogators, but also his close aides, family members and associates, to spill the beans and name all those in the Trinamool who benefited from the scam. And that’s what makes the Trinamool, especially its top leadership, very nervous.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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