Congress leader Mohammad Mukhtar, who had been arrested earlier in connection with the murder of a police officer in front of a Garden Reach college, has been picked up again four days ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in Calcutta.
Police linked Thursday’s arrest to a complaint registered last month, but sources attributed the move to Mukhtar’s active campaign against Trinamul in the port area in the run-up to the poll.
“Mukhtar was wanted in an arms dealing case registered with Watgunge police station in April 2014. He has been arrested in connection with that case,” joint commissioner (crime) Pallab Kanti Ghosh said.
Mukhtar, out on bail since early this year, was picked up from a place near the airport while he was on his way home from Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan.
“He has several cases of extortion and robbery pending against him,” said an officer of Garden Reach police station. “His absence from the port area during the polls will make a difference.”
Sources said Mukhtar was rounded up because he was posing a threat to Trinamul in the port area, where he heads several unions.
Sources in Garden Reach police station said Mukhtar had been actively campaigning over the past few months for Mala Roy, the Congress candidate from Calcutta South. The ruling party’s Subrata Bakshi is pitted against Roy.
Mukhtar, who was a Citu activist before joining the Congress in 2011, was the key organiser of rallies and road-shows for Roy in Garden Reach, Metiabruz and Ekbalpore. He also led door-to-door campaign for the Congress candidate.
“This is a political arrest,” Roy told Metro.
“Mukhtar has been arrested to pave the way for Trinamul men to rig the polls in Metiabruz,” said Maya Ghosh, the general secretary of the Congress’s state unit. Part of Metiabruz falls under the Calcutta South Lok Sabha seat and the other part under the Diamond Harbour constituency.
“This (the arrest) is an administrative decision. We have nothing to say,” said Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee.
A resident of the Deewanbagan area in Metiabruz, Mukhtar had allegedly fired at Mamata Banerjee while she was addressing a Congress rally in Garden Reach in 1995. The bullet narrowly missed Banerjee. Mukhtar, however, denied the allegation, saying he was in Howrah then.
Soon after Mukhtar joined the Congress, the party’s state leadership made him the general secretary of its trade union, Intuc, in Garden Reach.
Over the years, he has built a strong clout among the various labour unions in the port and several companies dotting the area.
In January 2010, Mukhtar was arrested after a gun was found in his possession while he was visiting Harimohan Ghose College in Garden Reach.
In February 2013, sub-inspector Tapas Chowdhury was killed in front of the college during a clash that broke out over the filing of nominations for the student union election. Mukhtar was arrested a fortnight later.