Trinamool’s 'Bahubali' Taken To Delhi: What It Means For His Party And Mamata Banerjee
If Mondal spills the beans, some senior leaders of the party may get into trouble.
Trinamool bahubali and prime accused in the mega cattle-smuggling scam (read this), Anubrata Mondal, is ultimately being taken to New Delhi for questioning by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Mondal for his alleged involvement in the smuggling of tens of thousands of heads of cattle to Bangladesh through the porous Indo-Bangla border on 11 August last year.
He was named as an accused by the CBI in the chargesheet that the agency filed on 7 October last year.
Mondal has been a close aide of Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee and had been instrumental in ensuring the victory of Trinamool candidates in successive polls in not only his home district of Birbhum, but the surrounding East and West Bardhaman, Bankura, Purulia and Hooghly.
While in judicial custody, he was arrested by the ED on 17 November for questioning in the money-laundering charges connected to the cattle-smuggling scam.
The ED has been repeatedly stating that Mondal, who wields a lot of influence, has been stonewalling its queries and has not been cooperating in the investigations.
Hence, it said, Mondal needs to be taken to Delhi so that he can be questioned in a neutral environment.
The Trinamool and the Bengal government opposed the ED’s plea and moved courts against the ED’s move. But the courts upheld the ED’s contention and allowed his questioning in Delhi.
However, the Bengal government made a last-ditch effort to stall his imminent transfer to Delhi (read this) by getting the state police to arrest him in an attempt-to-murder case filed against him by a Trinamool worker. But the courts defeated the Bengal government’s move.
ED officials had told Swarajya that since Mondal wields a lot of influence in Bengal and has the full backing of the state administration, he had been providing evasive answers to the agency.
The ED had tracked down a number of properties — land, buildings and industries — and bank deposits as well as valuables worth a few hundred crores of rupees in Mondal’s own name as well as in the names of his late wife and daughter. Some of these properties and bank accounts are also benami ones.
“We wanted to establish the money trail and link all these properties, bank deposits etc conclusively with the proceeds from cattle-smuggling. But Mondal had been simply stonewalling our questions or giving evasive answers because he is in a position of strength in Bengal. That’s why we have been wanting to take him to Delhi for questioning,” an ED officer told Swarajya.
What This Means For Banerjee And Her Party
Mondal has been a diehard loyalist of Banerjee and she relies on him to run party affairs in at least seven districts of the state.
He had an iron grip on the party machinery in these districts and has often been accused by opposition parties of being in charge of a cadre that threatens, intimidates, and attacks opposition workers, candidates and supporters.
According to many reports, Mondal was managing party affairs from inside the Asansol Correctional Home where he was lodged.
“The police and jail authorities were completely subservient to him and the Asansol jail had become his private resort. He had easy access to phones, computers and all other facilities and his party workers and leaders had full access to him,” said leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikari.
This was apparent on Tuesday as well when Mondal was being taken to the ESI Hospital in Joka in the outskirts of Kolkata from Asansol in the morning.
He was taken out of the jail around 7 am on Tuesday (7 March) and while being taken to Kolkata, his convoy stopped at Shaktigarh, a popular pit stop renowned for a particular variety of sweet called lyangcha.
According to this report in the Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika, Mondal had a sumptuous breakfast at Shaktigarh and also met some party activists there with whom he held some discussions.
Anyway, Mondal’s absence from Bengal on the eve of the panchayat elections in the state is a big blow to the party organisation.
His arrest last year had demoralised party workers, but that damage was mitigated with the state administration providing all facilities to Mondal in judicial custody.
But now, with him being taken away to Delhi where he will not have any access to his party colleagues and other facilities and will not be able to enjoy the undue advantages that were accorded to him in Bengal, Mondal will be powerless and cut off from his party.
“He will now be totally cut off from Bengal. That has left party workers in his domain — Birbhum and the surrounding districts — completely orphaned. We hope that the panchayat polls will be more free and fair this time,” Santosh Bag, a BJP leader from Bolpur in Birbhum, told Swarajya.
The ED hopes that a neutral environment and the denial of any undue privileges in Tihar Jail (where he will be lodged) will make Mondal spill the beans about the proceeds of the cattle smuggling scam and where all the money has gone.
It is inconceivable, according to a senior CBI officer who has been involved in the probes into some of the mega scams that have rocked Bengal over the past 12 years since the Trinamool came to power, that Mondal would have been the sole beneficiary of the cattle-smuggling scam.
“A portion of the proceeds of the scam would definitely have gone to Trinamool seniors and maybe even the party coffers. But while in Bengal, Mondal was not answering questions posed by us and the ED. Now, when he is questioned in Delhi, hopefully he will be more forthcoming. We will be able to get more out of him now,” said the ED officer.
That would be one major area of concern for Banerjee. If Mondal spills all the beans, some senior leaders of the party may get into trouble.
Banerjee, who has seen many of her senior party colleagues being arrested for their alleged involvement in many scams, cannot afford any more of her colleagues falling into the CBI-ED net.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.