All is not well within the Trinamool Congress. A party that swept the 2021 West Bengal assembly polls is today plagued with infighting, factionalism, and apprehensions. The problems have only compounded after Mamata’s nephew and future heir of the party Abhishek Banerjee found himself in a tussle with the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Reportedly, the TMC General Secretary on Monday appeared before the ED in the national capital for questioning in a money laundering case linked to a coal scam in West Bengal.
The ED summons against Abhishek and his wife Rujira come on the heels of Delhi High Court, earlier this month, dismissing a plea by the couple to attend the court proceedings in Kolkata only.
Tried to dillydally the court proceedings
The couple, in an attempt to dillydally the proceedings, had claimed that only the regional office (Kolkata in this case) of ED had the power to investigate the matter. Representing the duo, senior advocate and Congress G-23 dissident Kapil Sibal cited Section 65 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and Section 160 of CrPC to prove his point.
However, the High court threw away the petition and forced the TMC heir to submit in front of the ED and co-operate. Even before reaching Delhi, Abhishek had initiated the PR exercise to create a favourable climate for him in the national capital.
Talking to reporters, Abhishek said, “As I had said at a public meeting in 2020 November, if anyone can prove that I had misappropriated even 10 paise, I will walk up the podium and get myself hanged publicly. No need to put ED and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) behind me.”
What is the Coal scam case?
As reported extensively by TFI, the ED lodged a case under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) based on a November 2020 FIR registered by the CBI that alleged a multi-crore coal pilferage scam related to Eastern Coalfields mines in West Bengal’s Kunustoria and Kajora areas in and around Asansol.
Local coal operative Anup Majhi alias Lala is alleged to be the prime suspect in the case. So far, the ED has arrested two people in the case. One of them is Vikas Mishra, the brother of TMC youth wing leader Vinay Mishra, who is stated to have left the country sometime back and renounced his Indian citizenship.
It is pertinent to note that, according to the ED charge sheet, Vinay Mishra – the youth leader of TMC is very close to Abhishek Banerjee and that he is the eyes and ears of Abhishek Banerjee. According to the ED’s investigation, the Banerjee’s are accused of benefitting immensely from the alleged 1900 crore worth of coal scam.
Dent to Banerjee’s legacy
Abhishek Banerjee has been projected as the future of TMC by Mamata for years now. Despite not being popular amongst the party cadre, Mamata promotes Abhishek due to him belonging to her bloodline. Various leaders like Mahua Moitra, Suvendu Adhikari (now in BJP) were ignored to make way for Banerjee.
However, it appears that Abhishek is treading on thin ice. As reported by TFI, it was on Abhishek’s insistence that Mamata in February dissolved all posts in the party and formed a 20-member national executive that would look after the party’s work collectively.
Reportedly, Abhishek wanted to promote the ‘One Man, One Post’ policy in the party. While Mamata was initially against the move, Abhishek threatened resignation and got his way.
Read More: All is not well in the TMC
Ever since the West Bengal elections, TMC has been positing itself as a viable alternative opposition voice, often pushing Congress away. While Mamata has not been able to gain traction for her national ambitions as the drubbing in the recent assembly polls suggests, the challenge has become all the much harder with her nephew staring down a future prison sentence.
If the ED continues to tighten its noose around Abhishek, Mamata and her party will be forced to cut ties with the Diamond Harbour MP and move beyond. At present, TMC and its existence is purely based on Mamata’s popularity. She was quietly trying to model Abhishek as the next big thing so that power stays with the Banerjee surname. However, the ED and its tenacity has forced TMC on the backfoot.