Two important leaders of the Trinamool Congress, Partha Chatterjee and Anubrata Mandal, were arrested over the past fortnight. Chatterjee was arrested by the ED in connection with the Bengal SSC recruitment case while Mandal was nabbed by the CBI in a cow smuggling case. Both were considered close to chief minister Mamata Banerjee but their arrest has led to the party losing face in front of the opposition.
News18 spoke to veteran TMC MP Saugata Roy, who said the party had put its faith in leaders who eventually betrayed it. He was apologetic, but said this will not have an effect on results of panchayat polls or 2024 general elections. He emphasised on the fact that a survey conducted by the TMC showed that the BJP will not get more than five seats in Bengal in 2024.
Two important party leaders have been put behind bars within a fortnight. Is this the highest embarrassment for the TMC?
Embarrassment is a wrong word, but yes, two important leaders were arrested. We have lost face because important leaders have been nailed in a case of corruption. Partha Chatterjee case is open and shut and we have taken steps. About Anubrata (Mondal), we have to wait. It’s not yet clear and we will definitely have to be answerable to people.
We have taken a stand that the TMC will have a zero tolerance policy against corruption. We have also taken a view that anybody who does anything that harms the public will not be spared. We are trying to bounce back. Last two days, our workers have taken out a rally questioning the neutrality of ED and CBI. We will bounce back. It’s loss of face. We are sorry.
The Opposition is asking as to how it is possible that the top brass of the TMC knew nothing.
See, the point is, the opposition can say anything it wants but we knew nothing as to what Partha (Chatterjee) or Anubrata was doing. The party would have taken steps then. The party put its faith in certain persons, and they betrayed the party. Partha Chatterjee definitely betrayed the party and it’s likely Anubrata has done the same. It’s two days that Anubrata was arrested. With Partha, we took steps but will and watch what happens in Anubrata’s case.
Why was Anubrata Mandal never removed from the charge of district president of Birbhum even when there were allegations of murder and highhandedness against him?
He was foul-mouthed but a good organiser. There were murder cases but these are allegations commonly issued against politicians. If you are a strongman, then such cases are slapped against you. Anubrata took over at a time when 11 TMC members were hammered to death and he has faced the terror of the Left.
Will the corruption allegations have an effect on panchayat polls in 2023?
Ultimately, the TMC will win panchayat elections. Ultimately, support on the ground is important. In India, corruption is not an issue. You remember J Jayalalitha? She always returned to power. Indians are so poor, they do not react to corruption allegations. Poor people know that the rich take away all the money, but they are only concerned about whether the government is serving them. As long as they serve them, it’s alright.
There are changes in the TMC at the block level. Will it be a corruption-free party now?
Abhishek Banerjee (party MP and Mamata Banerjee’s nephew) has taken responsibility. He has appointed survey teams. This survey team has provided ground reality pictures of all leaders. Abhishek is working hard. Now, with some changes, all districts will have new teams.
What about 2024 general elections?
This was a blot on us and we have to recover. Our survey says the BJP will not get more than five seats. We stay with the people, work with the people.
Don’t you feel bad that Mamata Banerjee is known for honesty, she lives a simple life and the TMC is facing corruption?
I feel bad, Mamata is the epitome of honesty. She is a woman who believes in simple living. Everybody knows her lifestyle.
Who is responsible?
We will find out. It will take time, but for now am sure we will bounce back.