Durgapur, Feb. 15: Mamata Banerjee today said she would “always stand by” Birbhum Trinamul chief Anubrata Mondal, a day after Calcutta High Court formed a special investigation team to probe a murder case in which he is an accused.
At a Trinamul workers’ meeting in Durgapur, the chief minister praised Mondal, who had given a provocative speech that preceded the murder of a Trinamul dissident’s father, as a “fabulous organiser” who was being “unnecessarily targeted”.
“Keshto (Mondal’s nickname) khub bhalo chhele. Chomotkar kaaj korey, darun shongothok. O oshustho. Apnara onekei janen na. O ke oxygen cylinder niye ghurte hoy. Or mathay jotheshto oxygen jaay na (Keshto is a very good boy. He is an excellent worker, a fabulous organiser. Many of you don’t know he is unwell. He has to travel with an oxygen cylinder. Not enough oxygen goes to his head),” she said. Sources said Mondal had asthma and always carried an inhaler.
“Shobai or pechhoney legechhe aajkal. Ohetuk oke lokhyo kora hochchhey. Kintu ami chirokal or pashey darabo (everyone is after him these days. He is being unnecessarily targeted. But I will always stand by him,” Mamata added.
Mondal had told Trinamul workers at a rally to burn down the houses of party dissidents contesting last year’s panchayat polls as Independents. Days later, Birbhum resident Sagar Ghosh was shot dead by suspected Trinamul workers. Sagar’s son Hriday had unsuccessfully contested the elections as an Independent after being denied a ticket by Trinamul.
Mondal is among the 41 accused in the murder case. Five persons have been arrested so far. In the past few days, the high court had expressed dissatisfaction with the probe, removed the investigating officer and set up the SIT under Bengal police director-general G.M.P. Reddy.
Several Trinamul leaders admitted in private that the high court’s directive had embarrassed the party.
Party sources said Mamata was “extremely fond” of Mondal, who had “impressed” her with his organisational skills during the Singur anti-land acquisition movement.
“Mamatadi fondly addresses Mondal as Keshto. Her comments today are significant, especially after the high court’s directive yesterday,” a Trinamul leader who attended the Durgapur meeting said.
Trinamul leaders close to Mamata said they were not surprised by Mamata’s statements as she had virtually given a clean chit to minister Firhad Hakim after his name had cropped up in connection with another murder case. “Mamatadi stood by Hakim after his aide Mohammad Iqbal was arrested in connection with the murder of a police officer in Garden Reach,” a Trinamul leader said.
The Congress and the Left criticised Mamata for the timing of her comments today.
“By praising Mondal, the chief minister is trying to send the message to the administration that she does not want him arrested. This is unbecoming of a chief minister,” said newly appointed state Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury. “Can anyone expect the police to arrest Mondal after the chief minister’s praise?”
CPM state secretariat member Rabin Deb said Mamata was trying to influence the administration.
After CPM leaders Tapan Ghosh and Sukur Ali were released from jail in connection with the alleged murder of five persons in Chhoto Angaria, West Midnapore, in 2001, district party chief Dipak Sarkar had garlanded them and called them “assets of the party”.