Monday, August 8, 2022

Scam probes

In another scam that has struck the ruling TMC in West Bengal , ED sleuths raided various residence premises of Arpita Mukherjee , a small time actress-turned-political aide of West Bengal cabinet Partha Chatterjee and seized a whopping amount of cash totalling over over Rs.50 crore and gold and jewellery worth over Rs.5 crore and counting. The raids are related with the case dating back to April, 2021 when several writ petitions were filed in the Calcutta high court by aspiring school teacher- candidates alleging that they didn’t get jobs in government schools despite qualifying the exam. The seizures were more than enough to arrest Arpita Mukherjee and her political patron, Partha Chatterjee, a heavyweight minister in- charge, department of industry, commerce and enterprises, department of information technology and electronics, department of parliamentary affairs and department of public enterprises and industrial reconstruction. The cash and jewellery are supposedly the kickbacks from the West Bengal School Service Commission recruitment scandal that has been ongoing in the state for several years. For the TMC, it is no stranger to scams as it has, in many ways, become inured to them. In fact, TMC has survived and flourished despite staggering revelations of close connections between several party leaders and Ponzi schemes and even straightforward barter deals of cash for influence. In 2013, the Saradha chit fund scam shone a very powerful light on shady connections between TMC leaders and Sudipta Sen. In 2016, the Rose Valley chit fund scam revealed more connections between money and TMC politicians. Mamata Banerjee described the BJP’s modus operandi as a washing machine. Tainted politicians who defect to the BJP miraculously drop off the ED-CBI-IT radar. The TMC has become immune to scandals with over the years with its candidates accused in scams winning elections. The party has distanced itself from the arrested minister and Arpita but the BJP has not let go of the scam to affix the public perception that the TMC and the chief minister are connected to this teacher recruitment scam dating back to her previous term. For Mamata Banerjee the multi-score teachers for cash scam is indeed very damaging at a time when she seeks to play a pivotal role in opposition unity. The fact that central agencies are intent on targeting opposition leaders as well as political parties challenging the BJP is well established. The central agencies have also been focussing on the AAP to defang and defeat it politically. Senior Delhi AAP minister, Satyendar Jain, is in ED custody for a money laundering case . ED claimed cash of around Rs 2.85 crore was seized from him in raids earlier. Even though ED filed a prosecution complaint against Jain, AAP supremo Kejriwal has not dropped him. The next on BJP’s scanner is Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia who the CBI claimed was involved in a quid pro quo amounting to around Rs.400 crore with a liquor baron. Summons and raids on leaders of main rival opposition parties – Congress, AAP, TMC etc-has everything to do with harassment than on corruption. If corruption is the objective, then there is no reason why central agencies should not do likewise in BJP-ruled states.

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