KOLKATA: Arrested Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee gave a two-word nod on Tuesday to CM Mamata Banerjee’s remark that those found guilty in the cash-for-jobs scam in the school education department should be “put behind bars for life”. Prodded for a response as he was being escorted out of Kolkata airport in a wheelchair, he said in Bengali: “Thik bolechhe (she’s right).”
Chatterjee, who had been taken to AIIMS Bhubaneswar by air ambulance for a check-up on the orders of the Kolkata high court, wouldn’t say a word more as he climbed into a waiting car en route to the Enforcement Directorate’s office.
The TMC secretary general and his “close associate” Arpita Mukherjee, from whose home the ED seized Rs 21.9 crore, were interrogated separately multiple times during the day. They are to remain in ED custody till August 3.
Sources in the agency said Chatterjee remained “uncooperative”, but Arpita was more compliant.
Chatterjee faced questions specifically on his alleged “active role” in “illegal appointment” of schoool teachers when he was education minister, besides the source of funds that allegedly helped him amass various assets like real estate, several of them jointly owned by Arpita.
The minister’s alleged aide was questioned on her source of income. She was asked about the way she acquired properties jointly with Chatterjee and the coded entries in diaries and notebooks seized from her residence, ED sources said. “We placed documents about her 11-year-long association with Chatterjee. While she has told us how she met him, we are still to learn about the source of the cash found in her flat.”
The agency referred to 17 relevant documents seized from Chatterjee’s Naktala residence during raids last Friday. ED officials also produced several important pieces of “evidence” seized from the Diamond City South apartment where Arpita lives. Among the documents cited were intimation letters to job candidates, letters of recommendation from MLAs, sheaves of papers related to transfers and admit cards of candidates, copies of documents pertaining to the revised 2012 TET results and several deeds of conveyance in Arpita’s name that were executed in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
The ED has summoned Manik Bhattacharya, the TMC MLA from Palashipara and former president of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education, on Wednesday. He might be brought face-to-face with the minister and his alleged aide, sources said.