A Bharatiya Janata Party leader and six others were arrested in possession of cash amounting to Rs 33 lakh in newly-issued Rs 2,000 rupee notes, police officials told NDTV. Manish Sharma was the BJP’s candidate representing Ranjiganj in the Assembly elections he lost earlier this year. The accused, who were carrying arms and ammunition, reportedly have links with the coal mafia.
Sharma was found in possession of Rs 10 lakh, while the rest of the cash was found with the other accused. Officials said they received a tip that the group was travelling from Asansol-Durgapur to Kolkata and arrested them in a Kolkata apartment on Monday night. The group managed to evade the police at the Dakuni toll booth, but were eventually tracked down.
Local BJP leaders have claimed that Sharma has no links with the party anymore. Asansol BJP legislator Babul Supriyo said, “Yes, we gave him a ticket. But when he tried to meet me after that, I avoided him. I don’t know anything about his coal mafia links,” according to NDTV.
The ruling Trinamool Congress Party is expected to raise the issue in the Parliament. It had accused the BJP of buying land using black money before the demonetisation drive was launched. There were also reports that the BJP’s West Bengal unit had deposited Rs 3 crore in its official bank account just before the announcement.
On November 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes will not be legal tender anymore. He said it was a step to fight black money, corruption and the circulation of counterfeit currency in the country.