Kolkata: More and more skeletons are now tumbling out of arrested Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee’s closet. New truths about his association with alleged ‘aide’ Arpita Mukherjee are revealing that the two knew each other for a long time. Sources said that Partha Chatterjee and Arpita Mukherjee travelled to Singapore together for a business summit in 2012. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is piecing together evidence after several people reported that the two were seen together in Singapore to where Chatterjee had flown in his official capacity as minister to attend the ‘Beautiful Bengal’ summit which was meant to attract investment for the state of West Bengal. This was barely a year after the Trinamool Congress (TMC) stormed to power in the state.
“Yes, we have received certain inputs and are looking into the matter. This business summit was held during an alumni get-together of a renowned educational institution in Kolkata at Singapore. This has nothing to do with the institution. However, there were several people from the city present during the event. Some have reported that they spotted Mukherjee with Chatterjee during the trip. We are corroborating evidence,” an ED official said.
The ED is looking into the matter seriously, because the minister has been constantly denying his ‘closeness’ with Mukherjee. His counsel has also told the court that Chatterjee knew Mukherjee, but then as a minister he came in contact with a lot of others also.
This information in the hands of the ED is significant as certain incriminating documents seized from Chatterjee’s residence and the upscale apartment of Arpita Mukherjee dates back to recruitments through the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) of 2012. While some have claimed that Chatterjee, with full knowledge of the party’s top leadership, began recruiting non-qualified or under-qualified teachers in lieu of money since 2012, those close to the Trinamool maintain that all the unaccounted-for cash recovered from Mukherjee’s condo is post demonetisation, hence the racket doesn’t go so far back.
“There have been several clandestine land deals for nearly 10 years now. Several properties worth crores of rupees are now under our scanner. Money earned before demonetisation may have been invested in property. What was seized from the residence of Arpita Mukherjee may have been some of the earnings after new currency notes got circulated. We are sure that this is not something that happened over the last 3-4 years alone. Yes, a hue and cry by eligible candidates over the last two years did lead to this investigation. Those who suffered earlier may not have been aware that they had been cheated,” the ED official said.
Even a section of TMC leaders is now worried about the kind of brazenness being displayed by Chief Minister and party supremo Mamata Banerjee. Ideally, people would have liked to see Chatterjee removed from his post as a cabinet minister after his arrest and remand to ED custody for 10 days. Instead of doing that, Mamata seems to be protecting her image.
“We are worried. This is the time of social and digital media and nearly every person sitting in a remote village has access to a smartphone. Many TET and SSB aspirants who were cheated are from the rural areas. We will be going in for the panchayat polls in 2023. Will Didi’s bravado suffice in convincing voters that she knew nothing for so many years? Then, why is she not sacking Chatterjee immediately instead of creating a martyr out of him? Today, there is no doubt in people’s mind that Chatterjee is corrupt. The party need not stand by him any longer,” a senior Trinamool leader said.