In another major blow to the Trinamool Congress and its government in West Bengal, the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested Anubrata Mondal, the party’s district president in Birbhum, in connection with the cross-border cattle smuggling racket in the State. The influential but controversial leader had skipped a number of summons from the CBI on the grounds of ill health before he was picked up from his residence at Bolpur in Birbhum on August 11. Three weeks earlier, on July 23, the Enforcement Directorate had arrested influential Trinamool Minister Partha Chatterjee in Kolkata in connection with the School Service Commission (SSC) recruitment scam.
Anubrata Mondal is known for his organisational abilities and his influence extended to parts of Bardhaman and Murshidabad districts. However, Mondal was also infamous for his strong-arm tactics in dealing with political opponents, who have accused him of resorting to violence and even political murders. However, he has been the key factor behind Trinamool’s electoral triumphs in the region.
Earlier, in June, the CBI arrested Saigal Hossein, Mondal’s personal bodyguard who was reportedly the middleman between the cattle smugglers and Mondal. In 2020, the CBI had arrested a Border Security Force (BSF) commandant, Satish Kumar and three cattle traders, Enamul Haque, Anarul Sheikh and Mohammed Golam Mustafa , in connection with the smuggling racket. The CBI has also summoned eight IPS officers from the State—Gyanwant Singh, Rajiv Mishra, Sukesh Jain, Koteswar Rao, Shyam Singh, Tathagata Basu, Selva Murugan and Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay—for questioning in New Delhi.
The Trinamool Congress leadership remained largely non-committal in its reaction to Mondal’s arrest. Senior party leader and Lok Sabha MP Saugata Roy said, “Anubrata was a good organiser in our party; and we still do not know what they have against him, as his name has not been mentioned in the charge sheet. The party will decide once we know. We are ashamed about Partha Chatterjee (Trinamool Minister arrested in the SSC scam), but we are not yet prepared to say the same for Anubrata. We will decide once more facts come to light.”
Later, at a press conference, Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya said “Our leader has made it clear that the party will not tolerate corruption of any kind… but the central agencies are losing their neutrality.” She alleged that the central agencies are targeting those parties that are opposed to the BJP. “The central agencies do not go investigating in States ruled by the BJP. We feel that the agencies are being controlled in such a manner by the Central government that they are losing their neutral identity,” said Bhattacharya.
The opposition parties, including the BJP, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress took to the streets in different districts celebrating Mondal’s arrest. Interestingly, members of the CPI(M) and the BJP demonstrated side by side outside the court in Asansol, where Mondal was presented.