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The Fall Of Partha Chatterjee: The Once Powerful And Loyal Minister of Mamata Banerjee

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On July 23, Partha Chatterjee was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the West Bengal School Service Commission and West Bengal Primary Education Board recruitment scam. Along with him, his close aide Arpita Mukherjee was arrested from her residence. Partha Chatterjee was West Bengal’s Commerce and Industry Minister.

He was removed from his ministerial posts and was suspended from the party until the investigation was finished because of his involvement in the scam. If his innocence was established, the TMC promised to reinstate him. The TMC stated that he would be reinstated if he was proven not guilty.

Who is Partha Chatterjee?

Partha Chatterjee is the number 3 man in the Trinamool Congress (TMC), with Mamata Banerjee being number one and her nephew being number two. Along with holding key cabinet portfolios, he is a key leader during the elections.

partha chatterjee

Partha Chatterjee with Mamata Banerjee
Image Source: Republic World

According to the reports, Partha Chatterjee is the ‘go-to’ man of Mamata Banerjee when it came to dealing with the state’s organizational affairs or working out the constitution of the TMC district committees. He has been a key man when it came to working out election strategies and the entire spectrum of organizational matters.

Partha Chatterjee was Mamata Banerjee’s key loyalist and held important positions within the cabinet and in the party.

Who is Arpita Mukherjee?

Arpita Mukherjee is reportedly the close aide of Partha Chatterjee and has been seen with him during his election campaigns. According to reports, she is an actor and a model. She has reportedly worked in Bengali, Odia and Tamil films by doing some minor roles. According to the Express, Mukherjee met Partha Chatterjee nearly 10 years ago during Durga Pooja. She met him through his Durga Pooja committee called the Naktala Udayaan Sangha, one of the biggest Durga Puja committees in Kolkata.

Arpita Mukherjee Image Source Times of India

Arpita Mukherjee
Image Source: Times of India

The Express reported, that Arpita has been the face of the promotional campaigns of the Naktala Udayan Sangha in recent years. Her image has featured extensively in the advertisements of Chatterjee’s committee during Durga Puja.”

What was the scam?

The scam dates back to 2014 when the West Bengal School Service Commission (SSC) issued the notification for the appointment of teachers in the state-run schools in West Bengal. The selection would take place through the State Level Selection Test (SLST). The recruitment finally occurred in 2016 when Partha Chatterjee was the Minister-in-charge of the Higher Education and School Education Department in West Bengal.

While everything seemed fine, several petitions were filed with the Calcutta High Court alleging that there were anomalies in the recruitment process. The petitioners alleged that several candidates who scored less marks ranked higher on the merit list. They further claimed that appointments were made for candidates whose names did not appear on the merit list.

Calcutta HC Image Source NDTV

Calcutta HC
Image Source: NDTV

Additionally, the Bengal government notified the School Service Commission (SSC) in 2016 to hire 13,000 Group D employees for government-run or aided schools. Although the tenure expired in 2019, the petitioners claimed that the WBBSE employed 25 workers.

As the case progressed, the petitioners further claimed that not just 25 but over 500 people were appointed even after the SSC panel had expired and were drawing salaries from the state government.

The CBI soon launched its investigation into the matter after Justice Gangopadhyay directed them to do so. According to an India Today report, 269 primary school teachers were illegally appointed in West Bengal government-sponsored and aided schools. The petitioners alleged that the appointees did not qualify for the Teachers Eligibility Test (TET).

Justice Gangopadhyay Image Source Twitter

Justice Gangopadhyay
Image Source: Twitter

The report added, “It is further alleged some of the TETs fail and/or ineligible candidates of TET 2014 got appointments as Assistant teachers in primary schools. Several ineligible candidates who did not answer the question by answering the MCQ and submitted blank exam papers only mentioning their personal details got appointments as Assistant Teachers.”

Justice Gangopadhyay directed Partha Chatterjee to appear before the CBI for questioning once his role in the scam became apparent.

Who is investigating the scam?

The CBI and ED are currently working together to probe the scandal. After receiving a request from Justice Gangopadhyay to look into the situation, the CBI became involved. The ED is investigating the money laundering and financial irregularities while the CBI is looking into the scam’s criminal aspects.

What was recovered by the ED?

As soon as the ED began investigating the financial irregularities, it recovered crores of Rupees that were in cash. It was being hoarded at Arpita Mukherjee’s apartments. It took several hours to count the cash that was present on the premises and ED took the help of bank officials to count the cash.

More than 20 mobile phones were recovered (its purpose was being ascertained), and other incriminating documents, records, details of dubious companies, electronic devices, foreign currency and gold have also been recovered. Moreover, several property papers were recovered from Chatterjee’s residence.

The Cash Recovered From The ED Raid Image Source Hindustan Times

The Cash Recovered From The ED Raid
Image Source: Hindustan Times

During the raid, several WBSSC documents and admit cards of several students were recovered from Mukherjee’s and Chatterjee’s residences.

What was TMC’s response and what is the political complication?

The Trinamool Congress distanced itself from Partha Chatterjee after cash was found at Mukherjee’s residence. TMC state general secretary and senior leader, Kunal Ghosh demanded Partha Chatterjee be sacked from his positions in the party and cabinet. TMC leader and spokesperson Debangshu Bhattacharya supported Mr Ghosh and echoed his thoughts on expelling Partha Chatterjee.

TMC Leader Kunal Ghosh Image Source India Today

TMC Leader Kunal Ghosh
Image Source: India Today

Although he helped the TMC to win elections in the state, the party had to distance itself from him as large sums of cash were recovered from his aide’s home. Had the cash not been recovered from him, the TMC could have easily bolstered its allegations that the BJP was using central agencies for political vendetta.

Moreover, the cash recovery signalled a large embarrassment to TMC at a time when it was consolidating as a strong opposition party and challenging the traditional hegemony of the Indian National Congress.


References: Outlook India, India Today, Hindustan Times and Times of India

Featured Image Source: News18

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