Kolkata, May 18, 2021: West Bengal is once again witnessing high drama just weeks after the fever pitch elections as three of the top TMC leaders and ministers got arrested and CM Mamata Banerjee challenged the CBI to arrest her as well.
Although Monday’s daylong drama ended with the Calcutta High Court refusing to give bail to the three arrested TMC heavyweights Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee and Madan Mitra, it resumed on Tuesday morning with three of the four arrested being rushed to hospitals.
The four Bengal leaders Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee were taken to the Presidency Correctional Home in Kolkata late on Monday night after their bail was rejected in the Narada sting case.
On Tuesday morning, former TMC leader and Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee and TMC MLA Madan Mitra complained of uneasiness and discomfort and were admitted to the SSKM Hospital’s Woodburn Ward.
A few hours later, Subrata Mukherjee too complained of uneasiness and was also taken to the SSKM Hospital while Firhad Hakim remained at the Presidency jail.
Raid, arrest, bail and back in jail
Early on Monday, the day started in Kolkata with the news of minister Firhad Hakim being picked up by the CBI from his south Kolkata residence. Soon, it emerged that CBI had carried out parallel raids on three TMC leaders and Sovan Chatterjee, a former minister.
The four were arrested by CBI in its probe on the Narada sting operation case that was conducted by journalist Mathew Samuel in 2014 in which a bunch of TMC leaders surfaced were accused of taking huge bribes. The tapes were made public just before the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal.
The four leaders were taken to the CBI office at Nizam Palace in the heart of Kolkata even as hundreds of TMC supporters started protesting on the roads and jostled with the central forces as they took away Firhad Hakim.
TMC supporters and several leaders soon reached the CBI office and started protesting outside the gates. Within minutes, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reached the CBI office and challenged the probe agency to arrest her as well.
While Mamata Banerjee stayed put inside the CBI office premises, hundreds of TMC supporters started pelting stones at the building as the security personnel tried to control the crowd.
After six hours of sitting inside the CBI campus, Mamata Banerjee finally exited the building on Monday evening even as TMC supporters continued with their protests outside and also in front of Raj Bhawan.
Later during a virtual hearing after CBI submitted its chargesheet, special CBI judge Anupam Mukherjee granted bail to all four after hearing their lawyers and the counsel for the agency.
Later at night, the Calcutta High Court rejected the bail. The four leaders were then taken to the Presidency correctional facility with their families waiting outside.
Firhad Hakim in tears
While being taken to the CBI office, Firhad Hakim said, "I have full faith in the judiciary. The BJP can employ anybody to harass me."
Firhad Hakim, who is also the chairman of the board of administrators of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), started sobbing while saying that he could not finish his job of helping the people of Kolkata in the time of the pandemic.
On the other hand, Madan Mitra reminded that now former TMC leaders Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari, who are now in BJP were also accused in the same Narada sting case. "We all are bad men but not Mukul (Roy) and Suvendu (Adhikari)," said Madan Mitra.
Sovan Chatterjee, who quit TMC and joined BJP only to later resign again, said, "I am not a dacoit. I have not done anything wrong that the CBI could enter my bedroom to arrest me."
Protests across Bengal
Protests gripped various parts of Bengal, which recently gave a thumping victory and a third term to Trinamool Congress. TMC workers held fierce demonstrations across Bengal on Monday in protest against the arrests.
TMC workers were seen squatting on the road outside the CBI office and shouting slogans of ‘Hai Hai CBI’, ‘Hai Hai BJP’ till late night.