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Mamata vs CBI: Opposition cries 'murder of democracy', BJP hits back

An attempt by the CBI to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar on Sunday became the latest flashpoint between the BJP-led Centre and Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee  |  Derek O'brien  |  Saradha Scam

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Mamata Banerjee at Save Indian Constitution Rally
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee speaks to her party workers during a sit-in over the CBI's attempt to question the Kolkata Police commissioner in connection with chit fund scams, in Kolkata | Photo: PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is in confrontation with the Modi-led Centre over 'CBI vs Kolkata Police' on the chit fund scam, got an overwhelming support from various political parties who alleged that Union government was trying to "murder democracy" while the BJP hit back dubbing the backing as an "alliance of the corrupt".

The goings-on in West Bengal also resonated in Parliament with repeated disruptions, and was finally adjourned for the day after leaders of TMC and other parties hit out at the BJP-led government over alleged "misuse" of CBI by it to target opposition leaders.

Banerjee's combative posturing on the issue also became a rallying point for various opposition parties, who are trying to sew up an anti-BJP alliance ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

TMC spokesperson Derek O'Brien said that 22 parties have extended their support to the protest against the Centre as he sought to project her as a leader who has succeeded in uniting the entire opposition against the alleged misuse of the CBI.

"Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, TDP's N Chandrababu Naidu, RJD's Tejashwi Yadav, DMK's Kanimozhi have expressed their desire to join the protest and are going to Kolkata. Others like Samajwadi Party's leader Kiranmay Nanda have already visited the protest site," said O'Brien. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has also extended his party's support to Banerjee.

Hitting out at the opposition support to Banerjee, the BJP said an "alliance of the corrupt" is emerging after her protest against the CBI's move to question the Kolkata police chief in the multi-crore .

The ruling party also fielded its senior leaders and Union ministers to launch a counter-offensive on the issue.

Addressing a press conference, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wondered if Banerjee backed the police commissioner because he held "secrets" and needed to be saved.

ALSO READ: Mamata vs CBI: West Bengal governor submits report to home ministry

Refuting the charge that CBI's move was an "attack on federalism" and comes out of political vendetta, Prasad said this cannot be an "alibi to save the corrupt".

The CBI has acted as per law and it has the power to arrest or question somebody without a warrant, he asserted.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed the developments in West Bengal as "unprecedented" and warned that the Centre has powers to take action.

An attempt by the CBI to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scams on Sunday became the latest flashpoint between the BJP-led Centre and Banerjee, one of its bitter critics. The CBI has accused Kumar of destroying evidence related to the two fraud cases.

A CBI team was prevented from entering the residence of Kumar by Kolkata police personnel, bundled into vehicles, and detained. Contingents of West Bengal police also descended on CBI premises in the city, as a furious Banerjee rushed to Kumar's residence before beginning a dharna opposite Metro Cinema, one of Kolkata's landmarks on Sunday.

ALSO READ: HC refuses Mamata govt immediate hearing on CBI's attempt to grill top cop

Attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah over developments in West Bengal, Kejriwal said they needed to be defeated in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls "to save democracy" in the country.

He also alleged that the "Modi-Shah duo was the biggest danger" the country was facing as they were trying to "murder" democracy.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray said,"we applaud and support the stand taken by Banerjee against the autocracy and tyranny of the Central government. We firmly stand behind her and the fight against this tyranny."

NCP leader Sharad Pawar, at whose residence leaders of various opposition parties met in the evening said,"what happened to Mamtaji has happened in Delhi. Kejriwalji have faced similar issues".

Strongly condemning the incident in West Bengal, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister said, it is "a glaring example of how Modi-Shah duo are destroying the institutions. Attacking political opponents in different States, few days before the Parliament elections commence, will have disastrous consequences in the country."

The Left parties, however, said while the Centre is misusing the CBI, is trying to shield the corrupt in the scams and both are "sabotaging" the probe in the process.

The ruling BJD in Odisha also backed Banerjee, saying that the federal probe agency was being "used as a political weapon" ahead of the general elections.

On the controversy over the presence of the Kolkata police commissioner at the protest site, O' Brien said Kumar was present to show solidarity with other officers, as the dharna aimed at strengthening the administration.

DMK President MK Stalin nominated his sister and Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi to meet Banerjee in Kolkata and extend support.

ALSO READ: Will continue 'satyagraha' till country and constitution are saved: Mamata

Deftly side-stepping queries on the face-off between the West Bengal government and the Centre, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said "anything" can happen in the country until the Lok Sabha elections are announced but ruled out the possibility of the Modi government making an attempt to dislodge Banerjee from power.

Kalyan Banerjee, a TMC member in the Lok Sabha, alleged that the Union home minister was hiding facts from Parliament and said the Kolkata High Court had stayed the summons against Kumar till February 13.

"The CBI has violated the orders of the court by moving against Kumar. This is against the Constitution as well as the federal structure. As the head of the state, has protested against this," said Banerjee.

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First Published: Mon, February 04 2019. 21:05 IST