Mamata Banerjee and Anubrata Mondal climb the dais at the rally in Burdwan’s Mangalkot on Wednesday. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Mangalkot, April 9: Mamata Banerjee today shared the dais with Anubrata Mondal at a campaign rally in Burdwan, 24 hours before the Calcutta High Court deadline for police action against the Birbhum Trinamul chief ends.
The chief minister, who had earlier said she would always “stand by” Mondal, today appeared to support the leader, who is an accused in a murder case.
“I asked Keshto (Mondal’s nickname) if they had asked for something that he did not give and so they were targeting him. He could have given them muri and narkol (puffed rice and coconut),” Mamata said at the rally in Mangalkot’s Natunhat to campaign for Bolpur candidate Anupam Hazra.
It was not clear whom the chief minister referred to by “they”. At a party convention earlier this year when the murder case had first come under the high court’s scanner, Mamata had said Mondal was being “unnecessarily targeted”.
On Monday, Justice Dipankar Dutta of Calcutta High Court had given Bengal police director-general G.M.P. Reddy time till Thursday to take action against Mondal, whose provocative speech before last year’s panchayat polls had preceded the murder of a Trinamul dissident’s father by suspected party activists.
Sagar Ghosh was shot dead days after Mondal told Trinamul workers at a rally to burn down the houses of Trinamul dissidents contesting as Independents and hurl bombs at police if they came to the rescue. Sagar’s son Hriday had contested the rural polls as an Independent after being denied a ticket by Trinamul. Mondal is among the 41 accused in the murder case.
Prodded by the Election Commission, the Birbhum administration served three showcause notices on Mondal for a series of provocative speeches.
On Monday, Justice Dutta had told government pleader Ashok Banerjee that Mondal had “violated the law and challenged the authority of the police”. “How can a politician take the law in his own hands? Why have the police failed to take action against this leader in the past eight months? Why was he not prosecuted for making these comments?” the judge had asked.
Justice Dutta had said he hoped that DGP Reddy, who is heading a high court-appointed special investigation team (SIT), would “take action” against the accused by Thursday. “I will hear the case on Thursday and take action,” the judge had said, adding that he would hand over the case to the CBI if Reddy failed to execute his order.
Some police officers in Birbhum today said Mondal could be called to the CID headquarters in Bhavani Bhawan for interrogation tomorrow.
“The high court has given the administration time till it hears the case tomorrow. So there is a possibility that the government lawyer will submit a report saying Mondal had been questioned,” a police officer said.
Sources said the SIT, which has four CID officers besides Reddy, was likely to seek more time from the court, saying it was yet to gather “corroborative evidence” of Mondal’s involvement in the case.
“The SIT could claim in court that the process of verifying statements was still on. Since it is not clear if Mondal is directly involved in the crime, the SIT could seek more time,” said a senior officer.
The SIT could also tell the court that Mondal had not been arrested because there was no specific warrant against him, the officer said.
The police have arrested five persons in the murder case.
Today, four CID officers visited the offices of Birbhum district magistrate J.P. Meena, ADM (general) D.P. Karanam, and ADM (zilla parishad) Bidhan Roy to seek an official video CD of Mondal’s speech on July 17 last year.
“We told them we don’t have any such video,” a district official said.
At today’s rally, Mondal was seen overseeing arrangements.
Before Mamata’s arrival, three MLAs from Birbhum hailed Mondal as the “real architect of the district’s development”.
Mondal rose from his chair as Mamata’s chopper landed and walked slowly towards the makeshift helipad on one portion of the ground to greet her. The Birbhum Trinamul president escorted the chief minister to the dais and remained seated there till Mamata asked him to manage the crowd.
Trinamul sources said Mamata was aware that Mondal’s organisational skills would be needed to ensure Trinamul’s victory in the two Lok Sabha seats in Birbhum. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Trinamul had won the Birbhum seat but lost Bolpur to the CPM.
“Although Mondal has got involved in controversies because of his frequent provocative speeches, Mamatadi has stood by him and praised him for his organisational skills. By sharing the dais with Mondal today, she sent the message that she would continue to back him,” a Trinamul source said.
A Left delegation had submitted a written complaint against Mondal to the poll panel during a visit to Delhi earlier this month.
The chief minister referred to the complaint during her 45-minute speech at today’s rally.
“They are lodging complaints every day. After May 16 (when the election results will be announced), I will give all the replies. Bimanbabu (CPM state secretary Biman Bose), you can make 101 complaints. I will give 404 replies of 440 volts,” Mamata said.
Referring to the transfer of officers on the orders of the Election Commission, she said: “What difference does it make? The transfer of some officers does not mean the entire government has been transferred. I was here, I am here and I will remain here.”