Mamata Banerjee on ‘Dharna’ after Kolkata Police-CBI clash

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International desk, Feb 03: Bengal Chief Minister of India Mamata Banerjee lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP and sat on a dharna to “Save the Constitution” this evening after a huge showdown between the police and officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).The CBI wanted to quiz Kolkata police chief Rajeev Kumar on two Ponzi schemes, over which several leaders of the Ms Banerjee’s party have been arrested. Five CBI officials, who turned up at Mr Kumar’s home, were taken to a local police station and allegedly detained, ndtv reported.

“How dare you come to a police commissioner’s home without a warrant,” Ms Banerjee furiously demanded, accusing the BJP-led central government of trampling over people’s constitutional rights.

“There is total constitutional breakdown. It is my job to protect my officers,” the Chief Minister told reporters in the evening. “They (the BJP) cannot fight us politically. That’s why they are resorting to all this… Mr (Ajit) Doval is doing whatever PM wants him to do, he is the one giving all the instructions to CBI,” Ms Banerjee said, refering to the National Security Advisor.

The CBI officers, who were released later, are planning to meet the Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi. Ms Banerjee is sitting on dharna at the designated spot for protests in Central Kolkata, accompanied by Kolkata police chief Rajeev Kumar. She will stay there overnight and proceed to the assembly for the state budget tomorrow, but the protest, she said, will continue.

Rajeev Kumar — who headed a Special Investigation Team probing the Saradha and Rose Valley Ponzi scams that surfaced in 2013 — was asked to help with the investigation after several key documents allegedly went missing. Over the last two years he had received several summons for questioning.

This time, reports appeared in media that Mr Kumar may be arrested for evading questioning. Some reported that he was “absconding” and the Kolkata Police said they would take action for the defamatory reports.

Accusing the BJP of engineering the issue, Ms Banerjee tweeted: “The Kolkata Police Commissioner is among the best in the world. His integrity, bravery and honesty are unquestioned. He is working 24×7, and was on leave for only one day recently. When you spread lies, the lies will always remain lies”.

This evening, as the CBI officers turned up at the Park Street House of Rajeev Kumar, they were refused entry by the police guards posted there. Senior police officers virtually shepherded the CBI team away from the residence to a local police station. Senior Trinamool leader Derek O’Brien said at least 40 CBI officials had gone to Mr Kumar’s house.

After a meeting with the police brass at Mr Kumar’s house, Ms Banerjee said the trouble flared up after her mega rally of 23 opposition parties in Kolkata last month. She also accused PM Modi of using unparliamentary language during his recent rallies in the state. The Prime Minister had claimed the Bengal government was killing the aspirations of the middle class through “triple T — Trinamool Tolabazi Tax” — ”Tolabazi” roughly translates to an act of organised extortion.

The CBI-state police battle has reached the Calcutta High Court and the Supreme Court, with the agency alleging that police was obstructing investigations. The case will come up for hearing at the Calcutta High Court later this month. Another case is pending in the Supreme Court, involving the state police “summons” to CBI officers.

The state’s BJP lawmaker Babul Supriyo tweeted: “President’s Rule should be imposed on West Bengal to control this ‘Rogue’ #TMchhi Govt under a corrupt CM MamtaBanerjee. This is a constitutional crisis ‘created’ by Mamta to shield her corrupt & tainted accomplices”

The opposition has rallied around Ms Banerjee, with various leaders — including Arvind Kejriwal, Tejashwi Yadav, Lalu Yadav and HD Devegowda tweeting their outrage. Mr Kejriwal, Omar Abdullah and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel has called up Mamata Banerjee and offered her full support. Several opposition leaders are likely to visit her tomorrow.