Four years after the CBI registered an FIR in the Narada cash scam naming at least nine top Trinamool Congress leaders, it arrested four of them on Monday at its Kolkata headquarters at Nizam Palace.
Of those arrested, two are ministers in the newly formed Mamata Banerjee Cabinet — Firhad Hakim, Transport Minister and Chairman, Board of Administrators for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, and also ex-Mayor, and Subrata Mukherjee, Panchayat and Rural Development Minister.
The Narada sting operation, carried out sometime in 2014 by journalist Mathew Samuel and telecast in 2016 ahead of the Assembly election, showed top leaders of the Trinamool Congress from Mukul Roy, Suvendu Adhikari (both are now with the BJP and Adhikari is the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly) to Mr. Hakim, Saugata Roy, Sovan Chatterjee and Madan Mitra, accepting wads of money.
Mr. Hakim, who also holds the Housing portfolio, has been leading the fight against COVID-19 in the State. Soon after he was sworn in, he announced a host of measures, from setting up new safe homes to oxygen parlours to fight the disease as cases began to mount.
In an interview to PTI, he said, “We are now fighting a big battle against the coronavirus. We have to bring the healthcare system of the State back on track. It was derailed by the frequent visits of the Union ministers and outsiders during the elections.”
The 62-year-old, said to be close to the Chief Minister, won his Kolkata Port seat by a margin of over 60,000 votes. He was a councillor at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation from 2000 to 2015 before winning the contest for Mayor in 2018, the first Muslim Mayor since Independence. After Mr. Roy left the party in 2017, Ms. Banerjee has leaned on Mr. Hakim, popularly known as Bobby.
At his home office in Chetla in south Kolkata, he meets people in the morning to listen to their issues. Ahead of the poll, Trinamool Congress poll strategist Prashant Kishor had met all KMC councillors and Mr. Hakim to drive home the point that they must spread the word on the series of welfare schemes the ruling government had launched.
An important leader of the minorities, Mr. Hakim campaigned hard in the run-up to the recent polls to help consolidate their vote for the Trinamool Congress.
Among the other three picked up for questioning, Mr. Chatterjee, also Mayor of KMC for two terms and a close aide of Ms. Banerjee, joined the BJP in 2019, but quit the party after he was denied a ticket from his favoured Behala constituency.
Subrata Mukherjee, also a former KMC mayor, is one of the senior-most leaders and another trusted aide of Ms. Banerjee, who returned to power for a third term in May after a landslide victory. The 74-year-old Mr. Mukherjee held on to the prestigious Ballygunje seat in the Assembly poll, which he had first won in 1971, still campaigning door-to-door.
An old Congress hand, trade union leader and a minister in the Siddhartha Shankar Roy government, Mr. Mukherjee joined the Trinamool Congress in 1999. He is known for the work he did as Mayor from 2000 to 2005 when the Left Front government was in power. With friends across parties and considered to be close to Jyoti Basu, he got work done for the city without any trouble. When Ms. Banerjee won for the first time in 2011, Mr. Mukherjee was made the Panchayati Raj Minister.
Mr. Mitra, a former Transport Minister in the Trinamool Congress government, was sent to jail over the Sarada chitfund scam, but after his release in 2016, he slowly clawed back into reckoning. Though he lost the 2016 Assembly election from Kamarhati, he won it for the Trinamool Congress this time.