‘TMC is zero without Mandal in Birbhum district and that is why everyone is ensuring that he should not be arrested by the CBI’.


NEW DELHI: Controversy is no stranger to Anubrata Mandal, the Birbhum district president of Trinamool Congress. From threatening opposition leaders, senior police officers to arranging “muscle men” for the party, to his name being embroiled in illegal activities like sand, stone and cattle smuggling, Mandal is accused of all such things.
Recently, Mandal is once again in the midst of a controversy where his closest aide and bodyguard Saigal Hussain suffered a massive car accident earlier this week, killing Hussain’s six-year-old daughter and leaving him severely injured. The car accident had taken place in Birbhum district’s Ilambazaar area at around midnight when Hussain and his family were returning from Durgapur.
Opposition leaders of Bengal raised suspicion over Anubrata Mandal being one of the suspects behind this accident as the CBI had summoned Hussain for questioning in the cattle smuggling case, after Anubrata Mandal skipped multiple CBI summons for questioning in the same case, citing poor health issues. BJP’s national general secretary and Bengal leader Anupam Hazra also raised suspicion over the timing and the place of the accident and said that he would write a letter to the Prime Minister’s office requesting for a CBI inquiry into the “untimely” accident of Saigul Hussain. But people in TMC refute all such allegations as murky politics.
The 62-year-old Anubrata Mandal, also popularly known as “Kestoda”, is considered as one of the closest aides of West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee. Mandal enjoys the blessings of the local police and the local administration. Residents of Birbhum say that “not even a leaf can move without the permission of Anubrata Mandal in Birbhum”, while his party colleagues say that he is the “last word” of Birbhum. Despite him not contesting a single election ever and not even holding any government position in the state, Mandal has total control of the local administration and the police of Birbhum district. TMC leaders from Birbhum say that “Anubrata Mandal directs everything that happens in this district. His influence can even be felt in the neighbouring district of Burdwan.” It is this Anubrata Mandal who had once called the Police Superintendent of Birbhum district just before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and asked the SP to get a local BJP leader arrested on a “fake narcotics” case as the local TMC leaders were not being able to “rein in” that BJP leader who was fighting against the TMC and all this in front of the media with cameras rolling.
“Such is the might of Anubrata Mandal in Birbhum. Even the SP and DM (District Magistrate) are scared of him. He is scared of nobody. The DM and SP will never go against him, he has the blessings of Kalighat (Mamata Banerjee’s residence). Local TMC leaders, even the MPs and MLAs of Birbhum and parts of Burdwan district are the puppets of Anubrata,” a local TMC leader told this correspondent.
Even during the Panchayat elections of 2018, Birbhum witnessed widespread violence allegedly by Mandal’s men, who stopped opposition parties from filing their nominations. He had then told the media: “When the opposition leaders will go to file their nominations, development will stand by the roadside”, indicating that his men with sticks and rods will be guarding the Block Development Office where the candidates will go for filing their nomination.
During the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, he had even “threatened” the officials of the Election Commission of India who had put a ban on him from going out his house during the polling hours. Mandal had then said that when the Election Commission officials come to put him under “house arrest”, he would feed them “Gud and Batasaa”, indicating a “typical medicine” that his men would be giving to those officials to “calm their mind”.
Mandal is also alleged to shelter a lot of goons under his patronage that helps the Trinamool Congress machinery to function during the elections in Bengal. “The bombs, the guns that one sees in Bengal are all available under political patronage and in Birbhum, everything is controlled by Anubrata Mandal. The entire Trinamool Congress cadre in Birbhum and parts of Burdwan is under his control and this is the reason despite his many wrong doings, the top leadership of the TMC cannot do anything against him. He has made such a base for himself that is very hard to break,” a police officer that worked in Birbhum told The Sunday Guardian.
His might is not only restricted to this, the entire illegal activities of sand mining, stone quarrying, cattle smuggling are all controlled by Mandal in his area. According to local sources, the entire sand mining activity along the many rivers that flow from the Birbhum district is all controlled by Anubrata Mandal and his appointed men.
“Sand and stone mining is rampant in this district, if you go along the Brahmani river, Ajay river, Mayurakshi river, among others, you will see truckloads of sand being mined and taken away illegally every day. It is being done with the knowledge of the local administration, the local leaders who get a cut of the share from this. This share of illegal money goes from the bottom to right at the top in Kolkata, therefore everyone is asked to keep their eyes closed,” a local leader (whose political identity we are withholding) told this correspondent.
The recent clash in the Bogtui village in Birbhum’s Rampurhaat was a culmination of rivalry of exactly this issue and when The Sunday Guardian had then spoken to multiple locals in the area, all had blamed Anubrata Mandal and many even had demanded Mandal’s arrest. But instead of arresting Mandal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee while visiting the clash site that had left 9 people dead, was seen instructing the police to arrest another local TMC leader, allegedly on the direction of Anubrata Mandal.
Mandal had been associated with Mamata Banerjee since the inception of the Trinamool Congress in 1998. Before joining the TMC, Mandal was part of the Congress in Bengal and reportedly had worked with Mamata Banerjee when she was in the Congress. The rise of Anubrata Mandal happened when the TMC came to power in 2011, that is when Mandal who was close to Mamata Banerjee asserted his power and made a strong base for himself and the party in Birbhum district.
“The TMC is zero without Anubrata Mandal in Birbhum and this even Didi (Mamata Banerjee) knows and that is why everyone is protecting him and ensuring that by no chance, he should be arrested by the CBI. Even with the Bogtui incident, everyone knew that Anubrata Mandal was involved in some way or the other, but nothing happened to him, instead small pawns were made as scapegoats in the case and now everything is fine,” the local leader quoted above added.
Repeated skipping of CBI summons by Anubrata Mandal and getting himself admitted to state capital’s SSKM hospital had also drawn him the ire of the Calcutta High Court, wherein the court had taken cognizance of the fact that whenever a TMC leader had been called by the CBI, some of them gets themselves admitted to the SSKM hospital to escape questioning.