As Chief Minister she is expected to conduct herself responsibly.

 

Who gained from Mamata Banerjee’s theatrics in defence of the controversial Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar? Anyone with any concern for the rule of law as against anarchy will find the question a no-brainer. For, a Chief Minister obstructing a premier investigating agency from doing its duty opens her to the charge of wilful defiance of the Constitution. The West Bengal Chief Minister is not above the law. Her resorting to street protests at the drop of a hat might be her USP. But as Chief Minister she is expected to conduct herself responsibly. Exploiting street-sprawling, she gained primacy in the state politics. Indeed, as a mid-level Congress worker, she had once thrown herself before the car of Jaiprakash Narain, who was then leading a nation-wide campaign against corruption.

Despite her self-advertisement of incorruptibility—a crumpled cotton sari, V-shaped rubber chappals and humble family quarters supposedly the proof of it—some in her party are known to have taken money for the party from all manner of sources. The promoters of Saradha “cheat” fund bought great works of art for crores of rupees. Since the money so raised could be rightfully claimed as owned privately, we have no clue in whose account it was deposited.

While the poor suffered, some in the Trinamool Congress benefited personally from the largesse distributed by the ponzi scheme promoters. Therefore, it was natural to try and keep a lid on these scams. Indeed, then Union Home Minister’s wife, Nalini Chidambaram, was flown to Kolkata from Chennai by Manoranjan Gupta, now an accused in the case along with her estranged husband Matang Singh. For her “consultations” with the promoters, Nailini pocketed Rs 1.5 crore. Without doubt her services were sought not just because she was a top lawyer in her own right, but she was the spouse of a powerful Central minister. Much later, when it was revealed that she had received Rs 1.5 crore, Mrs Chidambaram claimed that she had declared the “fees” from the Saradha cheating fund in her income tax return.

Given such high-powered people on the payroll from the fraudsters, who ate up some Rs 40,000 crore of the life’s savings of the poor, it was natural for the Kolkata Police Commissioner heading the Special Investigating Team to seek to protect the ruling party leaders. But once the Apex Court shifted the investigation to the CBI, Rajeev Kumar was bound by law to hand over the entire material to the CBI. He did not. He deleted incriminating portions which would have exposed the complicity of the top TMC leadership in the scam. When repeated attempts to question Rajeev Kumar were frustrated by him and his superiors, the CBI was led to knock at his door.

It was then that Mamata came to his rescue, physically preventing the CBI team from accessing Kumar. The subsequent intimidation and bullying of the CBI sleuths and their detention for a short time in the police station underlined the anarchic element in the mental make-up of the West Bengal Chief Minister. Incidentally, the same Kumar had figured on Mamata’s hit list when Kumar had endeared himself to the top leadership of the then ruling Marxists. She then abused Kumar publicly, threatening to penalise him when she came to power. When she actually did come to power, overnight the same Kumar turned for Mamata “the best police officer in the world”. Such “loyal” officers are the bane of the bureaucracy, ready to break the law in the service of their political masters of the day.

Unfortunately, Mamata is not the only one to do such somersaults. Rahul Gandhi in 2013 cried from housetops about the Saradha scam, accusing the involvement of the Trinamool Congress top brass. Now, he stands alongside the same accused in a show of solidarity against the Narendra Modi government. Whether the tamasha over Rajeev Kumar with the leaders of almost all regional parties opposed to the Central government standing behind Mamata makes her a putative prime ministerial candidate would be known in the coming months when the fight over seats within the putative Mahagathbandhan begins in right earnest.

Meanwhile, the Centre would do well not to land the aircraft carrying that fugitive, Vijay Mallya, from London at the Kolkata airport, because the West Bengal Chief Minister is yet to sign an extradition treaty with India. For further evidence that she considers the state as her personal jagir, note the doggedness with which she prevents BJP leaders from campaigning in West Bengal. Trouble is that even those who should know better allow their hatred for Modi to overcome any concern they might have for Constitutionalism. Such myopia can only weaken our faith in federalism.

WHEN BIAS BECOMES CLEAR

Who posted on the popular micro-blogging site Twitter the following messages: “Congress wins are always comforting … by why?” Or, this post: “Bombs, quakes, deaths are all second to Narendra Modi’s political ambitions…”

Well, the person in question goes by the name of Mahima Kaul. And currently heads Twitter India’s division meant to sanitise the site of any abusive messages, fake news, etc., and rid it of political bias. With her looking over the tweets, it is no wonder that even our parliamentarians are concerned about the ingrained bias of the social media platform. The sooner Kaul is given the order of the boot the better it will be for the credibility of the global social media giant.

PROBING A WELL CONNECTED BILLIONAIRE

What has happened that the Congress party has now changed tack on Robert Vadra from earlier no comment and private citizen, to fully owning him as its own and defending him openly? Could it be that now that Priyanka Vadra has openly become the unquestioned leader of the family firm, it feels obliged to protect him from being made accountable to the same law which the rest of us are supposed to adhere to at the pain of requisite punishment in case of its defiance?

Priyanka Vadra dropping Robert at the door of the Enforcement Directorate was meant to be an act of solidarity. But it also served to establish that she was a full backer of her dear husband, who is accused of perpetrating scams under the aegis of very obliging Congress governments, state or Central.

As for Vadra taking on the chin all the probes launched by the Modi government, a moment’s glimpse at a photograph of him approaching the ED would reveal anxiety writ on his face. Now, why was he so certain of his sasural (in-laws) ruling India permanently and thus ducking any inquiry into his business dealings without let or hindrance?

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