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Anubrata Mondal — TMC leader arrested by CBI is key Mamata aide, built Birbhum as party turf

Trinamool Congress Birbhum district chief Anubrata Mondal was arrested Thursday for his alleged involvement in a cattle smuggling case.

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Kolkata: Trouble for the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal intensified Thursday, with the CBI arresting the party’s Birbhum district chief Anubrata Mondal for his alleged involvement in a cattle smuggling case.

Mondal, who has been with the party for two decades, is credited by party members for having worked to consolidate its position in and around Birbhum.

While he has never fought elections, he is known to be among West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee’s trusted lieutenants.

Said to be the party’s strategist in Birbhum — a district where the TMC won 10 of 11 assembly seats in last year’s state elections and also holds both Lok Sabha seats — Mondal is described as a grassroots leader who handles the Trinamool’s day-to-day political affairs in Birbhum and wields clout in the district administration and police.

Popularly called “Keshto”, his palatial blue-and-white house in Birbhum’s Bolpur town is known to draw more supporters than the Trinamool party office in Bolpur.

Mondal’s arrest comes weeks after former West Bengal cabinet minister Partha Chatterjee was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for his alleged involvement in the West Bengal School Service Commission (SSC) recruitment scam.

Chatterjee was subsequently removed from his cabinet post and suspended from the Trinamool Congress. While the party is yet to announce any action against Mondal, the arrest of the party’s Birbhum district unit president — also a national working committee member — has led the opposition to sharpen their attack on the ruling party.

Suvendu Adhikari, Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal assembly, called Mondal a “mafioso”, saying in a media address Thursday that “he is a goon created by the Mamata Banerjee”.

Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, addressing a press conference the same day, alleged that “CM (Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee and TMC leaders are involved in scams”. “Such scams are not possible without the support of the government and police. TMC has become a party of thieves,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress Thursday announced a two-day (Friday-Saturday) statewide protest against what it alleges is the targeting of opposition states by the ED and CBI, and reiterated that the party has zero tolerance towards corruption.

“We believe law will take its course, free, fair, and timely investigation will be conducted. All borders have customs [officials], they should be summoned too,” said TMC minister Chandrima Bhattacharya at a press conference Thursday, referring to the case against Mondal.

Also readHow West Bengal cabinet reshuffle is Mamata’s attempt at image makeover for her govt

The case against Mondal

Mondal, 62, comes from a family of farmers.

On Thursday, a team of CBI officials reached the TMC leader’s Bolpur residence with a battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and arrested him as part of an ongoing probe into alleged cattle smuggling.

“Accused (Mondal) was consistently avoiding CBI summons and not cooperating with CBI. It was also revealed that the accused procured a huge number of cattle from the Ilambazar animal fair and ensured safe passage for transportation of cattle to the international border,” the CBI claimed in a statement Thursday.

The CBI filed its first FIR in the case in 2020. According to them, between 2015 and 2017, over 20,000 cattle head were seized by the Border Security Force while allegedly being smuggled across the border.

The CBI said it had served 10 notices on Anubrata Mondal to join the probe, but he allegedly only appeared once and skipped other notices claiming ill-health.

Mondal has been sent to 10-days’ CBI custody by a special court in Asansol.

Referring to Mondal’s failure to comply with the CBI’s notices, Trinamool MP Sougata Roy said “Anubrata was not keeping well and couldn’t appear before the CBI”.

“But now that he’s been arrested, the matter is now in court. We don’t know what evidence the CBI has against him. We were ashamed of Partha Chatterjee, but we are waiting to see what Anubrata has done before acting,” he added.

Mondal’s lawyer Shekhar Kundu told reporters Thursday that it was the leader’s constitutional right to remain silent. “We didn’t pray for bail on technical grounds but asked for fewer days of custody, which was granted,” he said.

This is, however, not the first time that the TMC strongman has been in news.

Past allegations

In 2013, just ahead of panchayat elections in West Bengal, Mondal was purportedly caught on national television instigating party cadres against the police and opposition. 

“Hurl bombs at the police and burn homes of Independent candidates,” Mondal had appeared to say in the video, while speaking to party workers in Birbhum’s Panrui village.

A chargesheet was filed against him, but he was acquitted by a chief judicial magistrate’s court in 2016 on the grounds that the allegation could not be established.

He’s been seen issuing open threats to police personnel on duty as well.

The Election Commission (EC) of India put him under “strict surveillance” during last year’s state elections, “in the interest of free and fair polls”. He is also under the CBI’s scanner for the post-poll violence in West Bengal last year and has been sent notices in this case as well.

In April this year, a PIL was filed in the Calcutta High Court against Mondal for allegedly using a red beacon atop his black SUV.

The TMC leader lost his wife, Chobi Mondal, to cancer in 2020 and his mother Pushparani Mondal the previous year.

The CM hasn’t made any public statements since Mondal’s arrest by the CBI Thursday. However, in 2014, she had defended the Birbhum party chief while addressing a TMC programme in Durgapur. “There are some people conspiring against him, but he does good work. He is suffering from a disease, but he works and carries an oxygen cylinder with him. We must view the issue with humanitarian touch.”

Earlier this year, he received a post in the Trinamool Congress national working committee, the highest decision-making body of the TMC. He is the only district-level leader in the body of MPs and ministers headed by Mamata Banerjee.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also readED summons 8 West Bengal IPS officers to Delhi in ‘coal smuggling’ case


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