The CBI investigations into a possible connection of Rujira Naroola Banerjee, wife of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and Trinamool Party’s Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee, with the ongoing coal mining scandal in the state and money trail may have more to do with the growing pre-poll feud between TMC and BJP in the state than with any substance. It may also be meant to divert the public attention from CBI’s failure to apprehend main suspects in the case, including Anup Majhi alias Lala and Vinay Mishra. Vinay Mishra is the TMC youth wing’s general secretary. The investigating agency had issued a look-out notice against both Majhi and Mishra. Majhi was recently interrogated by CBI. CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) raided Majhi’s 20 offices in Kolkata and a few offices in Dhanbad, Purulia and Asansol. The agencies claimed that they found documents linking both Majhi and Mishra to an illegal coal empire worth Rs. 20,000 crores.
Incidentally, CBI’s past records of dealing with the country’s mining mafia is abysmally poor. The reason behind it may be the alleged involvement of some of the country’s political hubris, including state chief ministers belonging to both the ruling party at the centre and states and its opposition. Going by such records, there is little reason to believe that the questioning of Rujira Naroola Banerjee and her sister, Menaka Gambhir, who also lives in Kolkata, will yield any conclusive and legally tenable evidence in the massive illegal coal mining case. However, such pre-poll investigations and standard ‘media leaks’ may have an impact on TMC’s poll campaign in the state. No one is guilty till proved in a court of law. Media reports alleging Rujira having foreign bank accounts with transaction records also may not mean much if she is a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) from Thailand or an Overseas Indian (OCI). Under both circumstances, she can have foreign bank accounts. Seemingly, her foreign status appears to be one grey area that may concern both Rujira and her husband more than her involvement in the coal case or alleged overseas bank transaction case, which are difficult to prove.
CBI has performed very badly in high-profile cases, involving top politicians and businessmen. In 2012, then vigilance commissioner R Srikumar lamented that an internal study by CBI had shown that “its conviction rate is a shocking 3.96 percent.” Many suffered jail and ignominies at the hands of CBI though it mostly failed in prosecution proceedings. Over the last 10 years, CBI had questioned several ministers and chief ministers, MPs and MLAs in connection with mining scams, ponzi scams and other financial scandals. Many of them were arrested and jailed, but very few were convicted for want of concrete evidence. This may have induced the West Bengal CM to go for an all-out offensive against pre-poll CBI investigations, maybe aiming to ultimately fix Abhishek Banerjee. ‘Bhaipo’ (the nephew) has been publicly accused of spearheading a ‘cut money’ culture in the state by the Prime Minister, union home minister, BJP’s national president and the party’s local leaders. However, Mamata’s populism is a big barrier to break. All are waiting to see CBI’s next move.