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regular-article-logo Thursday, 22 February 2024

Post-B’day ED call for Abhishek Banerjee today over probe in Bengal school jobs scam

The timing of the summons left a section of Opposition members wondering if this was a deliberate attempt to prevent the possibility of the opposition parties coming together

Kinsuk Basu Calcutta Published 09.11.23, 07:01 AM
Abhishek Banerjee.

Abhishek Banerjee. File picture

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned Abhishek Banerjee, Trinamul general secretary and party MP, for a round of questioning in connection with its ongoing probe into the irregularities in appointment in state-aided schools, on Thursday.

The central investigating agency had earlier summoned Abhishek twice in October.

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This time, the summons was sent on Tuesday when the Trinamul MP from Diamond Harbour was celebrating his birthday, Trinamul functionaries said.

“He will meet the investigators on Thursday and answer their questions as a responsible MP and as the party’s national general secretary,” said Sashi Panja, one of the party spokespersons.

“This is a sort of witch hunt, harassment so that one doesn’t get to focus on the preparations for the ensuing Lok Sabha polls. Abhishek is also a part of the ‘INDIA’ alliance and this is an effort to malign the party,” Panja, also a minister.

The last time Abhishek met ED officials in connection with the probe was on September 13, when the coordination committee of the Opposition bloc of INDIA met for the first time at the national capital.

The timing of the summons left a section of Opposition members wondering if this was a deliberate attempt to prevent the possibility of the opposition parties coming together.

Abhishek, who is one of the committee members, then wrote on his X-handle:

“...One can’t help but marvel at the timidity & vacuousness of the 56-inch chest model,” in a veiled attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The next summons from the ED asked Abhishek to appear for questioning on October 3 when the Trinamul-second-in-command was scheduled to lead a delegation of party workers and leaders from Bengal in New Delhi.

Abhishek had skipped the summons only to receive the next summons directing him to appear on October 9 before the central agency investigators.

Senior ED officials said they wanted to question Abhishek in connection with the alleged irregularities in recruitments after Sujay Bhadra alias Kalighater Kaku, one of the accused now in judicial custody, admitted that he worked for the Trinamul second-in-command.

The central investigating agency has said earlier that Bhadra was the chief operating officer (COO) of Leaps and Bounds Private Limited, a company whose CEO is apparently Abhishek.

ED on Mallick

The ED on Tuesday came up with a formal release about the arrest of Jyoti Priya Mallick, the Bengal food and supplies minister for a decade till 2021, saying that “approximately 30 per cent of PDS ration intended for Priority Households (PHH), RSKY and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) beneficiaries were diverted to open market and the proceeds of crime generated from the same were shared between the millers and the PDS distributors.”

Mallick was arrested before daybreak on October 27 from his Salt Lake home after hours of interrogation on the money trail from the purported irregularities in the public distribution system (PDS).

Trinamul, including its supremo and Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, has been backing Mallick, currently the state forest minister, after his arrest.

Mallick handled the large, volatile district of North 24-Parganas almost single-handedly for years, till Trinamul national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee divided the district’s organisational responsibilities among a team of largely his loyalists.

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