Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s protest against the Central Bureau of Investigation was a “disproportionate overreaction”. The Opposition leaders supporting her are similar to a “kleptocrat’s club” aspiring to capture power in the country, he added.
“Mamata Banerjee’s disproportionate over-reaction to the CBI wanting to interrogate the Kolkata Police Chief has flagged several issues for a public discourse,” he wrote in a Facebook blogpost titled “The Kleptocrat’s Club”. “The most important being that a Kleptocrat’s Club now aspires to capture the reigns of India.”
Jaitley said the chit fund scams were unearthed in West Bengal in 2012-’13 and the Supreme Court had handed over the investigation to the CBI.
“The court monitored these investigations,” Jaitley wrote. “The CBI has interrogated and even arrested some people. Many have been granted bail. If a police officer is also required to be interrogated, how does it become a super emergency, assault on federalism, or destruction of institutions?”
Banerjee started a dharna on Sunday evening after an unsuccessful attempt by the CBI to arrest Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with two Ponzi scams. The Trinamool chief has stated that the protest’s aim is to save the country and the Constitution. Several Opposition leaders have extended support to her and have accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre of misusing national institutions.
Jaitley said federalism was “a delicate balance of the Centre-state relationship” and not just a slogan. He alleged that the CBI was being “brutally prevented” by physical force from investigating a crime legally within its jurisdiction. “It is a textbook illustration of a state government assaulting federalism,” he added.
“Can a state government prevent the Income Tax Department from collecting taxes in a state?” Jaitley asked. “Can another state government prevent the NIA [National Investigation Agency] from proceeding to arrest a terrorist located in the state? Can the Enforcement Directorate be prevented from investigating or arresting a smuggler or money-launderer physically located in a state? Obviously, the answer is no.”
Jaitley alleged that it would be “a gross error” to assume that Banerjee’s dharna was the result of a routine investigation involving a police officer. “She did it to defocus from other Opposition aspirants for the highest office and to project herself as the nucleus of India’s Opposition,” he claimed.
The finance minister said most of the Opposition leaders or their affiliates who were supporting Banerjee are being investigated, prosecuted and, in some cases, have been convicted for corruption.
“Mamata Banerjee’s latest acrobatics are the best evidence of the kind of governance India’s opposition can provide,” Jaitley said. “But more importantly those who have lent support to the West Bengal dharna are those who are battling serious allegations of economic improprieties, criminal misconduct and even corruption.”