Kolkata: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, before taking on the might of the Narendra Modi government and the CBI in a dramatic roll of events, held a meeting with the top brass of the state police, including Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar, sources said.
The CBI claimed before the Supreme Court on Monday that Kumar is a “potential accused” in the Saradha chit fund scam investigation.
Banerjee has launched a protest against the CBI for attempting to question her police chief without completing required formalities, alleging that they are destroying the federal structure of the state.
Forty CBI officers had arrived at Kumar’s home for questioning on Sunday evening. The TMC alleged that they were trying to question him without a warrant, following which the Kolkata police briefly detained a group of CBI officers.
Mamata took the BJP and the CBI by surprise when she rushed to Kumar’s residence upon knowledge of the incident. She launched a public dharna to “save the Constitution”, accusing Prime Minister Modi of launching a coup against her. But sources close to Banerjee said that none of this was accidental.
“It was increasingly becoming apparent that the CBI could arrest Rajeev Kumar. This was something that the CM believed was the clearest indication of CBI going beyond its brief,” said the source.
The source further added, “At the meeting, it was made clear that the BJP would try and arrest Rajeev (Kumar) and that the state government was no longer going to take the attacks on the federal structure lying down. There was a plan.”
The plan, sources said, was to go on the offensive. “There are few politicians, if any, who are as adept at a street fight than Mamata Banerjee. The long term plan for the CM had always been to draw the BJP into a one-on-one street fight, on her terms,” said a source close to the CM.
Within minutes of Mamata issuing the clarion call to her party, the TMC cadre began mobilising across the state. Protests, railway and rail blockades were organised across the state and by morning different parts of the state saw posters criticizing Modi and Amit Shah coming up.
By midnight, Mamata had managed to get the support of each and every opposition party in the state. Parties like the BJD, Shiv Sena and PDP that had stayed away from the opposition alliance had also joined her in support.
Sunday wasn’t the first time that Mamata has alleged an attempted ‘coup’. During the demonetisation drive in 2016, Mamata had alleged a “military coup” stating that the army had been deployed without informing the state government. This was seen as a move “against the constitution”, aimed at “disrupting governances”.
That was another late night protest where Mamata stayed inside the state secretariat while the opposition cried foul. The difference between that protest and the ongoing one, sources in the TMC said, was one of timing.
“There are just a few weeks left for the elections. Mamata has already cemented her place in the anti-Modi politics after the Brigade rally where all opposition leaders got together. This allows her to get eyeballs from across the country and even her two engagements, that she had to attend, will help her,” said a TMC leader.
The two events in question – the state budget and a farmers’ event – were key, said TMC sources.
“During the farmers’ event Mamata had laid out the different schemes that have been in place for years and directly attacked Modi over demonetisation. The budget, again, is likely to directly counter the narrative of the national budget,” they said.