After IPS officer’s arrest, is Mukul Roy next in Narada sting case?

Published : September 27, 2019 13:46 IST

S.M.H. Mirza (centre), after being produced by CBI officials in court in connection with Narada Sting operation case in Kolkata on September 26. Photo: PTI

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) made its first arrest in the Narada sting operation case in West Bengal on September 25 when it took into custody senior IPS officer S.M.H. Mirza. Mirza, who was the Superintendent of Police in Bardhaman district when the sting operation was carried out by the news portal Narada News in 2014, was seen on camera accepting wads of money, apparently on behalf of Mukul Roy, who was then one of the most powerful political figures in the State.

The Narada sting, which was made public just before the 2016 Assembly election in West Bengal , showed top Trinamool leaders accepting bundles of cash from a sting operative pretending to be a representative of a fictitious company, Impex Infrastructure (set up for the sting), in exchange for assurances and promises for favours and “lobbying”. The party heavyweights shown in the video included MPs Mukul Roy, now a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Sultan Ahmed (who passed away in 2017), Saugata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, and Prasun Banerjee; Cabinet Ministers Suvendu Adhikari, Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee and Madan Mitra (no longer a Minister); the then Mayor of Kolkata Sovan Chatterjee (who recently joined the BJP), and the then deputy Mayor and MLA Iqbal Ahmed.

The arrest of Mirza, who was known to be close to Mukul Roy, has once again brought the Trinamool-turned-BJP heavyweight under the glare of public and media spotlight. In the video footage that was released by Narada, Mukul Roy is seen unwilling to accept cash personally in his house and directs the sting operative to take it to his office. “I am not taking it straight away. I will tell my men. You will give it to them,” he is seen to be saying.

When the sting operative informs him that he had Rs.20 lakh which he wanted to give to Roy, the wily Trinamool leader is seen only to nod. Roy tells the operative, “You talk to Mirza. Everything will be communicated to me through Mirza.” The video footage shows Mirza sitting in a sofa in his official residence, casually attired in shorts and loudly counting the bundles of money being given to him. Mirza was suspended by the State government in November 2017, the very month Mukul Roy defected to the BJP. Mirza’s suspension, however, was for a complaint lodged against him by the widow of a Sub-inspector who had killed himself, alleging that Mirza played a role in the suicide.

“CBI is carrying out the investigation on the order of the court; it is not doing it of its own volition. It will do whatever is required for the case.... A lot of footage was shown by each and every television channel, and I can say on my behalf, that nobody has been able to point out that I was taking money from anyone. Nobody came to offer me money.... Those who came to meet me told me they wanted to do business in a particular place. I advised them on that,” said Roy. According to sources, the CBI is now likely to question Mukul Roy.

The situation is a little uncomfortable for the BJP, which is now practically breathing down Trinamool’s neck in the race for victory in the 2021 Assembly election in the State. The BJP leaders who were baying for Mukul Roy’s blood in 2016 are today indebted to him for their party’s exponential rise in the State. Mukul Roy has been playing a key role in weakening the Trinamool by bringing leaders into the BJP fold. Another close aide of Mamata Banerjee, Sovan Chatterjee, the former mayor of Kolkata who was also seen accepting cash on camera in the Narada footage, recently joined the BJP.

In March 2017, a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court ordered the CBI to take over the Narada case. In a scathing indictment of the State government, the judge had said, “The State police are at best, unfortunately, puppets on a string, the end of which is with the respondents. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the preliminary inquiry should be conducted by a neutral and independent investigating agency.... It surprises me that the state in this case, rather than acting independently, has supported the respondents with all the vehemence at its command.”

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