West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee started a ‘dharna’ late on Sunday after a team of CBI officials arrived at the home of Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, PTI reported. Banerjee said the aim of her protest was to save the country and the Constitution, The Hindu reported.
“To save the country and Constitution, I am going on ‘satyagraha’ from tonight,” she said. “[This is] a complete constitutional breakdown.”
Banerjee, on a ‘dharna’ in Esplanade in central Kolkata, accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah of trying to organise a coup in the state, and said the CBI action was politically vindictive, reported PTI. “National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is giving direction to the CBI on instruction from Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” she alleged.
A makeshift office is being built near the site of the protest so that Banerjee can do her administrative work, reported The Indian Express.
Earlier in the evening, the Kolkata Police had detained a CBI team that had reached Kumar’s home to question him in connection with the Rose Valley and Saradha ponzi scams. The CBI officials were taken to a police station and let off after around two hours. Banerjee had reached there and said she would stand with her police force.
Banerjee said that law and order is a state subject and the CBI did not have the right to go to a senior official’s house in this manner. “I run an administration and if any official of my administration gets in trouble, I need to protect him,” she said.
West Bengal is among the states ruled by non-BJP parties that have, since November, withdrawn the “general consent” provided to the CBI to carry out searches in their territory.
Banerjee accused the BJP, which is in power at the Centre, of acting in an unconstitutional manner. “They can’t defeat me politically, so [they are] targeting me in the unconstitutional way,” she said. “The Kolkata police commissioner is one of the world’s best police officers. I feel ashamed to talk to this Prime Minister.”
Banerjee claimed that she had been pressurised to not hold the “United India” rally on January 19 in Kolkata, which had brought together several Opposition parties and leaders. “We are victimised for holding that rally,” she alleged.
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien accused Modi and Shah of “resorting to political vendetta” after the United India rally. “The BJP knows the TMC slogan has arrived – ‘2019 – BJP Finish’,” he said.
O’Brien claimed the CBI team did not have a search warrant to execute the operation. “They landed with 40 CBI officials at the police commissioner’s residence... the perpetrators are actually Modi, Shah and Ajit Doval, I heard it from my sources and I say this with full responsibility,” he claimed.
Banerjee said she would stand with her police force, adding that they could have arrested the CBI officials. “I have nothing against [CBI] officials, that’s why I have let them go,” she said. “This is the destruction of the federal structure.”
The chief minister said she would hold a meeting in connection with the matter in the state Assembly on Monday, ANI reported.
Kumar, who has not been seen in public since the CBI summoned him on February 1, headed the special investigation team that inquired into the two chit fund scams before the central agency took over in 2014 on the Supreme Court’s orders. The special investigation team had been set up by Banerjee the year before.
The CBI has sought documents and files from Kumar. However, he has not responded to notices asking him to produce the documents.