Mamta Banerjee is a street fighter. That is the role in which invariably she comes up trumps. That is how and why she won the recent Bengal assembly elections. The margin of her party’s victory was huge. It should have intimidated any ordinary opponent but not the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Amit Shah. He is not one to accept such wide margin defeats, which do not give him the option to purchase the weak.

In Delhi, where Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party triumphed decisively in last year’s election, the law had to be altered to clip Kejriwal’s wings. A friendly lieutenant governor has been empowered to douse any move that boosts the Aam Aadmi Party’s fortunes. In Bengal, a partisan governor will transcend the role ascribed to him by the Constitution to embarrass Mamata Banerjee to the brink of mental despair, forcing her to take to the streets instead of tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and slaying it.

A compliant “caged parrot” , as the Supreme Court described the Central Bureau of Investigation in 2013, and an anxious occupant of the Raj Bhavan have joined forces to deprive Banerjee of two of her ministers and two other supporters loyal to her and the Trinamool Congress party. These four, as also two others, were caught on tape seven years ago in 2014 accepting cash in a sting operation. The two other Banerjee loyalists who were also involved in the bribe taking crossed over to the BJP just before the elections. They have bought their freedom.

Perhaps that was the quid pro quo for the defections. Otherwise, why did the Central Bureau of Investigation wait so many years – seven – to take action? The agency had been set up to ferret out the truth in corruption cases but it just bides time to repay debts to political masters. Shame on the parrot, even a caged one, for stooping so low.

A tearing hurry

Amit Shah is in a tearing hurry to punish Mamata Banerjee in any manner he can conjure for humbling him at the hustings. He had spent so many nights planning and plotting. He had spent so much time making weekly visits to each of Bengal’s 40-odd districts. In Bengal, he had spent so much of the electoral bonds money his party had so assiduously collected. He had lured so many of Banerjee’s aides to the BJP in the days leading to the elections to create an atmosphere of rats abandoning a sinking ship. Only, the ship did not sink.

The humiliation was too much for a proud man to bear. There was urgent need to demonstrate power and strength and grit and determination to the doughty lady in the simple white sari. What better way then to use all the instruments available in South Block to unleash a tsunami of the unexpected when all that Banerjee and even his own boss, Narendra Modi, were engrossed in at this moment of time was the havoc caused by the super-spreaders of Covid-19 during the election rallies and the Kumbh Mela?

Amit Shah also should have been occupied with the ravages of the Covid-19 but he seems to be fixated on revenge on Banerjee. First it was the induction of the paramilitary to provide security to the 77 MLAs elected on the BJP ticket to the Bengal assembly, knowing full well that these men would be like fish out of water since they were not trained for duties outside their remit. But what he, Amit Shah, intended was not really providing security but to provoke the street fighter in Mamata Banerjee.

In the process, he has pitted the Central para-military against the state police in an adversarial role, whereas they had all these years been deployed as aids to forces striving to preserve law and order.

And so, after seven long years of repose, the CBI wakes up like a Rip Van Winkle and arrests four Trinamool Congress leaders in a bribery case entrusted to them for inquiry in 2014. Suvendhu Adhikari, the designated leader of the opposition BJP, and Mukul Roy, another of those elected on the BJP ticket, who had crossed over from the Trinamool just before the elections, had also received bribe money and were captured taking the cash on tape. But the governor does not seem to have inquired from the CBI how and why they have been left out of the net when the papers were placed before him for sanction to prosecute. In fact, Adhikari received Rs 5 lakh whereas the others got only Rs 1 lakh.

It also needs to be established when exactly the governor signed the order sanctioning prosecution. It is alleged that he did it after Banerjee was sworn in as chief minister and not in the interregnum between the two governments. But even if it was in the interregnum, what was the hurry about? Of course, Banerjee would not have signed but she will surely sign Adhikari’s and Mukul Roy’s papers if placed before her. Why are these being delayed?

I know now why the former police commissioner of Mumbai facing a spate of allegations of extortion in the company of former encounter specialists, years ago dismissed from service but reinstated and placed under his care, wants the charges against him to be inquired into by the CBI. He knows who owns the cage that holds the parrot.

Julio Ribeiro served in several senior positions as a police officer and was India’s ambassador to Romania.