Ripples of violence at BJP’s ‘Nabanna Chalo Abhiyaan’ was felt on the first working day of the Bengal Assembly’s special session on Thursday even as dramatic turn of events unfolded with BJP and the ruling Trinamool Congress MLAs leaving the floor, forcing Speaker Biman Banerjee to adjourn the first half of scheduled business.
With both sides shouting slogans aimed at each other and holding placards with stinging political one-liners, chaotic scenes were witnessed within the Assembly premises and paved way for what the reminder of the session may look like.
Fresh Corruption Charges Against TMC
But the most significant development of the day was perhaps Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari firing a fresh salvo of corruption charges against four Trinamool leaders from South 24 Parganas district where he presented purported property documents and claimed that the properties were acquired through corrupt means.
It may not be an accident that Adhikari chose South 24 Parganas as the first district of choice to “expose corruption of TMC leaders” since the national general secretary of the party, Abhishek Banerjee, is an MP from the same region.
Adhikari also named two senior Trinamool leaders, MP Santanu Sen and Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim to state that he had in his “possession property documents not disclosed in their respective poll affidavits” which he would “reveal in due time”.
Among the leaders in Adhikari’s direct line of fire were Kultali MLA Ganesh Chandra Mondal. The MLA is alleged to have amassed a staggering 39 properties between 2019 and 2022 by siphoning off funds for MNREGA and Cyclone Amphan relief provided by the Centre.
Even as he held up the purported property documents he claimed to have collected through official channels, Adhikari alleged that at least three other leaders – Jahangir Khan, President of the Falta Panchayat Samiti, Gautam Adhikari and Shamim Ahmed Molla – also procured real estate by similar corrupt means during the same time period.
“The official valuation of these properties would be in excess of Rs 50 crore. But since the properties are grossly undervalued, I believe the market price of these real estates would be to the tune of Rs 200 crores,” Adhikari said, adding that he would hand over the documents to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for investigation.
“Mamata Banerjee claims that 99.9 per cent of Trinamool leaders are honest while only 0.1 per cent could be corrupt. I assert that the figure is just the other way round,” Adhikari maintained.
‘Ready to face investigation’
Rubbishing Adhikari’s claims, TMC leader Ganesh Mondal told News18: “All my properties are acquired in legal manner and have been declared in my IT returns. I am ready to face any investigation from any agency.”
Party MP Santanu Sen responded equally assertively. “Both my wife and I are medical practitioners and our sources of income are well known. All my properties have been made in legal manner and are declared in my IT returns. Let Suvendu come out with his concrete allegations and I will have no problems in responding to them,” he told News18.
“The BJP is trying to throttle my voice since I am vocal in criticising them. If they think they can intimidate me in this manner, they are grossly mistaken,” Sen said.
Earlier in the day, chaos in the state Assembly followed after the BJP legislative party moved an adjournment motion to discuss corruption in various levels of state administration but was disallowed by Speaker Biman Banerjee on grounds that “the matter was subjudice in various courts”. While the BJP MLAs staged a walkout, their Trinamool counterparts left the floor after the Speaker adjourned House and left his chair.
TMC Mocks Adhikari With ‘Don’t Touch Me’ Poster
The Assembly premises also wasn’t immune to issues beyond the realm of politics and forayed into the domain of oblique references to Adhikari’s sexuality. TMC legislators carried placards quoting Adhikari’s comment of “Don’t touch my body” to a female police personnel on Tuesday during his altercation with Kolkata Police and before he was detained for trying to reach Howrah to lead one of the arms of BJP’s Nabanna Chalo Abhiyaan.
While tangentially referring to a previous incident of the mysterious death of one of Suvendu Adhikari’s bodyguards, TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh that a “certain leader” tried to “force his bodyguard into a sexual relationship and who later died under mysterious circumstances” after filing a complaint against the leader.
“The victim in question was never my bodyguard. I have the High Court’s immunity against coercion in this case. I don’t need to respond to the words of an insect of the gutter who has spent three and a half years in jail,” responded a visibly irked Adhikari.
“I was first stopped by senior officers of the Kolkata Police. Then a female police personnel tried to shove me towards a police van. The women personnel were in jogging outfits and I didn’t even initially understand whether they were police or Trinamool cadres. There could have been spontaneous counter-responses from the workers who were with me. That’s when I asked her not to touch me,” Adhikari explained of what played out in TV camera glares on Tuesday.
The BJP plans to move another adjournment motion in Bengal Assembly on Friday, this time on alleged police high-handedness during Tuesday’s rally, giving rise to speculations of a possible redux of Thursday’s drama within the premises.