Bengal Dashboard: ED's Discovery Of Another Scam In Recruitment To Civic Bodies Spells Trouble For Mamata Banerjee
All the updates from West Bengal politics in one place.
21 March update
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) that is probing the cash-for-jobs scam in Bengal's school education department has chanced upon another scam in appointments to junior posts in Trinamool-run municipalities of North 24 Parganas district adjoining Kolkata.
The ED said that it has unearthed a 'goldmine' and the extent of the cash-for-jobs in municipalities will be known as investigation progresses. Many Trinamool leaders and functionaries are allegedly involved in this scam.
17 March update: The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is investigating the cattle smuggling scam in Bengal, has now brought former Trinamool minister and sitting MLA Jakir Hossain under its scanner.
Hossain, who runs a big beedi manufacturing business, is said to have been named by some people questioned by the ED in connection with the scam. ED suspects him of laundering the proceeds of the scam.
The Income Tax Department had raided houses and offices of Hossain in January this year and seized a huge amount of cash from them.
The ED has also summoned Anubrata Mondal’s daughter Sukanya, Trinamool Congress leader Kripamoy Ghosh and businessmen Moloy Pit and Rajib Bhattacharya to Delhi for questioning in the cattle smuggling case.
Ghosh, Pit and Bhattacharya are very close to Anubrata Mondal and are suspected of having received huge sums of money from the cattle smuggling allegedly masterminded by Mondal.
16 March update: Senior Trinamool Congress leader and North Bengal Development Minister Udayan Guha has asked his party cadres to ensure that the Opposition parties do not find any candidate to field in the forthcoming panchayat polls.
This brings back memories of the 2018 panchayat polls where the Opposition parties could not field candidates in 34 per cent of the seats due to the alleged strong-arm tactics of the Trinamool.
Panchayat polls in Bengal are due in May and if the Trinamool loses in even a few districts, it will provide a momentum to the opposition, primarily the BJP, in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
13 March update: The Bengal Assembly passed a motion Monday (13 March) against “misuse of central agencies” by the union government to target party functionaries.
This is the second time that the ruling party has used its strength in the Bengal Assembly to pass such a resolution. Bengal was the first state to pass an Assembly resolution against alleged “misuse of central agencies” in targeting Trinamool leaders and functionaries in September last year.
Ironically, even as the Bengal Assembly was discussing the resolution, the ED was making shocking disclosures about the huge properties and assets owned by Trinamool leader Santanu Banerjee.
Banerjee, a Trinamool youth wing leader who was a junior employee of the state-run West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd, was arrested by the ED late last week for his involvement in the bribes-for-jobs scam in the state education department.
Banerjee is the karmadhyaksha of the Trinamool-run Zila Parishad of Hooghly district. His annual salary from the state power utility ranged between Rs 4 to 5 lakh, but the ED revealed that Banerjee owned properties worth over Rs 350 crore.
Kuntal Ghosh, another Trinamool youth wing leader who was reportedly close to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, was arrested by the ED in late January this year for his involvement in the same scam.
Trinamool’s ‘scam’ problem
As West Bengal gears up for the upcoming panchayat polls and the Lok Sabha elections in 2024, the cash-for-teaching-jobs scam has triggered a lot of public discontent against the Trinamool.
Briefly, this scam was about thousands of undeserving candidates--many of them Trinamool functionaries or relatives of party functionaries--being appointed to the posts of teachers and non-teaching staff in government schools in Bengal between 2014 and 2021.
During this time, Partha Chatterjee was the Education Minister. He was arrested in mid-2022, along with his close friend Arpita Mukherjee.
Another senior Trinamool leader, Anubrata Mondal, is now in Tihar jail in connection with the cattle-smuggling scam.
Apart from this, allegations of funds meant for the government schemes being siphoned off by mid- and low-level Trinamool functionaries have marred the previous and current terms of Mamata Banerjee.
2 March update: Sagardighi bypoll
In the bypoll to the Muslim-majority Sagardighi Assembly seat in Murshidabad district, the Congress-Left alliance defeated the Trinamool candidate.
Notably, Muslims form over 66 per cent of the population of this Assembly seat.
This loss however may not be worrying the Trinamool too much because Muslim voters in Murshidabad and Malda, where they are in a majority, have traditionally been Congress and Left supporters.
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