Kolkata, Jan 3 : In a fresh blow to West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress, its Lok Sabha leader and former union minister Sudip Bandyopadhyay was on Tuesday arrested in the Rose Valley Chit Fund scam, its second MP to be taken into custody by the CBI in five days.
The move, coming after the December 30 arrest of Trinamool MP Tapas Paul in the scam, sent political temperatures soaring, with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee calling nationwide protests against the Modi government’s “vindictive attitude”.
A crowd believed to be made up of Trinamool supporters attacked the BJP state headquarters here, leaving 15 activists injured in stone pelting. A few cars were vandalized. The Rapid Action Force was later deployed at the BJP office.
Heavyweight Trinamool leaders, including ministers, MPs and state lawmakers, also marched to the Central Bureau of Investigation’s regional office at Salt Lake demanding to meet their arrested leader.
Bandyopadhyay, 64, a four-time Lok Sabha member and a minister of state in the Manmohan Singh government, was summoned by the CBI and arrested after questioning, the agency said.
CBI sources said Bandyopadhyay failed to give satisfactory answers to many questions and was found to be uncooperative.
He was being flown to Bhubaneswar for further questioning. He would be produced before a court on Wednesday.
Bandyopadhyay went to the CBI office during the day after the agency issued the third summons to him for questioning in connection with his alleged role in the scam.
Earlier, he was summoned twice in December but he skipped the meeting, pleading his engagements in Parliament.
On learning about Bandyopadhyay’s arrest, a fuming Chief Minister and Trinamool supremo Banerjee lashed out at the Centre and sought the arrest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah instead.
She alleged the involvement of BJP and Akali Dal leaders with a chit fund company.
She also claimed that Bandyopadhyay was arrested under pressure from the PMO and announced pan-India protests.
“We strongly condemn the politically vindictive attitude of Modi and Amit Shah. They have arrested our Parliamentary Party leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay. He is a veteran politician and senior leader of our party.
“It is all because of our fight against NoteBandi (note ban). Nothing can stop us from being with the people and we will continue with our protest against NoteBandi,” she said.
Banerjee also demanded the arrest of other leaders including BJP MP Babul Supriyo and CPI-M’s Md. Salim and Sujan Chakraborty.
“We will hold a demonstration in front of Kolkata RBI on January 9 and there will be dharnas in 10 states including Delhi, Assam, Odisha and Tripura on January 10 and 11,” she said.
“I also run a government and I also have the power to arrest certain people who are thieves, hooligans and extortionists,” she said.
TMC spokesperson Derek O’Brien said its MPs will protest against the Centre in New Delhi on Wednesday.
As news of the arrest spread, hundreds of Trinamool activists took to the streets.
BJP leader Piyush Goyal said the central government “never interferes” in any investigation process.
But Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala said the arrest was “nothing but vendetta”.
CPI-M leader Md Salim said Bandyopadhyay’s arrest was “much awaited” and accused the Modi government of delaying it.
The CBI had earlier arrested former Trinamool Rajya Sabha member Srinjoy Bose and suspended Rajya Sabha member Kunal Ghosh besides then West Bengal Transport Minister Madan Mitra for their alleged involvement in the multi-crore rupee Saradha group scam.
Having cast its net across West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, Odisha, Jharkhand and Maharashtra among others, the Rose Valley Group is alleged to have illegally raised around Rs 17,000 crore from the public after wooing them with false promises of paying high rates of interest.
The group is also being investigated by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and the Enforcement Directorate which had arrested Kundu in 2015 and in September this year attached assets worth Rs 1,250 crore of the company.