On a day when the west coast of the country was hammered by Cyclone Tauktae bringing heavy rains and largescale destruction in Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and other states, in the east, Bengal witnessed a political storm on Monday that has the potential to snowball into a huge Centre vs state issue. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday morning arrested Mamata's cabinet colleagues Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee and Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra as well as former minister Sovan Chatterjee in connection with the Narada sting case in which politicians were purportedly caught taking money on camera in 2014.
As soon as the news of the arrest of her party leaders was made public, CM Mamata Banerjee rushed to the CBI Kolkata office situated at the Nizam Palace building.
The chief minister, who arrived at the CBI office around 11 am, "told our officers that they have to arrest her if they want her to leave Nizam Palace," sources in the central probe agency said. Mamata Banerjee left the building in the evening after nearly six-hour-long sit-in.
The TMC leaders were granted bail in the evening. However, it was cancelled by the Calcutta High Court late night on Monday.
TMC supporters clash with police
While Mamata protested inside the CBI office, TMC supporters held demonstrations defying lockdown norms outside and at various locations in the city. TMC party supporters defied Bengals lockdown norms, raised slogans against the BJP-led NDA government, and hurled stones and bricks at security personnel outside Nizam Palace.
The agitators also burnt tyres and blocked roads in several other parts of the state, including Hooghly, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts.
'BJP unable to accept Bengal defeat'
Reacting to the arrests, TMC spokesman Kunal Ghosh claimed that the CBI action was a vengeful act and a fallout of the BJP's loss in the West Bengal assembly elections.
"The BJP is still not able to accept defeat in the polls after having made an all-out attempt to win. This is a reprehensible act. When the state is fighting the Covid situation, they are trying to create disturbances in such a manner," Ghosh said.
The ruling party MP Sougata Roy said this was a "vengeful and vindictive" decision by the central government.
"The CBI action is politically motivated," said TMC MLA Tapas Roy. West Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee dubbed the arrests as illegal, contending that the CBI move on the basis of the governor's sanction was unlawful.
"I have not received any letter from the CBI nor has anybody sought any permission from me as per the protocol," he said.
Arrests after Governor's nod
Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had recently granted sanction to prosecute all the four leaders, following which the probe agency finalised its charge-sheet and moved to arrest them.
"I do not know for what unknown reason they went to the governor and sought his sanction. The chair of the speaker was not vacant at that time, I was very much in office. This sanction is absolutely illegal and arresting anyone on the
basis of this sanction is also illegal," Biman Banerjee claimed.
Governor Dhankhar urges Mamata to contain 'explosive' protests
Expressing concern over the widespread protests across the state, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar urged CM Mamata Banerjee to contain the "explosive situation" and asked her to weigh the "repercussions of such lawlessness and failure of constitutional mechanism".
"Message @MamataOfficial "Total lawlessness & anarchy. Police and administration in silence mode. Hope you realize repercussions of such lawlessness and failure of constitutional mechanism. Time to reflect and contain this explosive situation that is worsening minute by minute," Governor said in his tweet.
(With PTI inputs)