Trinamool Congress (TMC) top brass is perhaps faced with its biggest political crisis ever since Mamata Banerjee broke away from the Congress to form her own party in January 1998. The arrest of West Bengal Commerce and Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee and his continuation in the West Bengal Cabinet is enough to suggest what it means to be Partha Chatterjee in TMC.
TMC boss Mamata Banerjee has been a strident critic of the Centre and has lost no opportunity in attacking the Narendra Modi government for misusing central agencies to settle scores with political rivals. However, the sheer speed of the ED raid, recovery of unaccounted cash and the arrest of Partha Chatterjee have put the TMC and its leadership on the backfoot.
Popularly known as ‘Partha Da’, he has been associated with TMC since its inception and was considered among the top five most powerful leaders in the party hierarchy. He was Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly from 2006 to 2011. He shares a close association with the TMC chief for a very long time and is considered one of her most trusted aides. His arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the charges of money laundering has sent shivers down the rank and file.
The involvement of the minister of state for education Paresh Chandra Adhikary in the SSC recruitment has raised eyebrows and cadres are asking for the suspension of Chatterjee and Adhikary.
ED had searched Cooch Behar residence in connection with the SSC recruitment scam. The central agency also carried out searches at the residence of Manik Bhattacharya the former president of the West Bengal Primary Education Board and several officials who were found involved in the recruitment scam.
Though the Chief Minister and the party supremo is said to be extremely annoyed with Partha’s arrest, she has not taken any punitive action against him fearing that may open the gates for the central agencies to target other members of the TMC.
Recovery of over Rs 20 crore in cash from the house of Arpita Mukherjee by the ED and her proximity with disgraced Partha Chatterjee, has caused irreparable damage to the TMC. Mamata Banerjee is said to be extremely cross with the recent happenings involving her party leaders. Video of illegal money recovered from the house of Arpita Mukherjee has not only gone viral but has also put brakes on the national ambition of the TMC chief. Political observers feel that TMC may find it hard to shake off the allegations of large-scale corruption in the event of the recovery of a whopping amount of cash by the ED.
Their political rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has lost no chance in launching an attack on the TMC and its chief Mamata Banerjee and her powerful nephew Abhishek Banerjee. TMC is now caught in the classical Hamletian dilemma. If it now expels Partha Chatterjee and Paresh Adhikary from the party, it will give more ammunition to its political rival BJP. Questions will be asked why now? Why was the duo not shown the door when the party knew about their misdeeds?
TMC insiders say that Mamata Di’s nephew and the powerful general secretary has been more vocal about the removal of Partha Chatterjee and Paresh Adhikary from the party to stem any further loss of image. Interestingly Partha Chatterjee has been the mentor of Abhishek Banerjee and any disciplinary action will queer the pitch for the latter. The question will always be asked why the TMC president took so much time to crack the whip. Why Partha Chatterjee was not shown the door, despite the party general secretary raising questions about his highhandedness.
Though there is another school of thought that wants Chatterjee and Adhikary to be suspended from the party pending an inquiry. They can be very well reinstated if they come out clean during the party’s internal probe.