CBI knocks at Abhishek Banerjee's home, wife gets notice in coal pilferage case; TMC alleges political vendetta

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New Delhi/Kolkata, Feb 21 (PTI) A CBI team on Sunday went to the Kolkata residence of Abhishek Banerjee, TMC MP and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew, serving a notice to his wife Rujira to join the probe in the coal pilferage case, a development that has further raised the political temperature in poll-bound West Bengal.

The team handed over the notice issued by Investigation Officer Umesh Kumar, Additional Superintendent of Police in CBI, in connection with the case of coal pilferage from the mines of Eastern Coalfields Ltd in West Bengal in which Anup Manjhi is the alleged mastermind, sources said.

The notice issued on Sunday asked Rujira Banerjee to remain present at her address on Harish Mukherjee Road on the same day 'for the purpose of answering certain questions relating to the case'.

The Trinamool Congress and the BJP targeted each other over the CBI action.

'At 2 PM today, the CBI served a notice in the name of my wife. We have full faith in the law of the land. However, if they think they can use these ploys to intimidate us, they are mistaken. We are not the ones who would ever be cowed down,' Abhishek Banerjee tweeted.

Alleging political vendetta, the Trinamool Congress took a swipe at the ruling BJP at the Centre, saying 'CBI is its only ally' that is left now.

The BJP hit out the TMC, accusing it of politicising the matter, and said the law will take its course.

The central probe agency had on Friday carried out a fresh round of searches in connection with the case, they said.

The CBI had registered an FIR in November last year against the alleged kingpin of the pilferage racket Manjhi alias Lala, Eastern Coalfield Ltd General Managers Amit Kumar Dhar (of then Kunustoria area now Pandaveswar area) and Jayesh Chandra Rai (Kajor area) besides ECL Chief of Security Tanmay Das, Area Security Inspector, Kunustoria Dhananjay Rai and SSI and security in-charge Kajor area Debashish Mukherjee.

It is alleged that accused Manjhi Lala is involved in the illegal mining and theft of coal from leasehold mines of ECL in Kunustoria and Kajora areas, the sources said.

The assembly elections are due in April-May in the state where the BJP has launched a vigorous campaign to oust the ruling TMC which had secured consecutive wins in 2011 and 2016 under its leader Mamata Banerjee.

Abhishek Banerjee, Lok Sabha member from Diamond Harbour constituency, wields considerable influence in the party and has been leading the Trinamool Congress' counter-attack.

The CBI has also summoned Binay Mishra, understood to be a close confidant of Abhishek Banerjee, in a separate case of cattle smuggling.

The notice to Banerjee's wife from the central agency comes a day before a court in Kolkata will hear a defamation case filed by Banerjee against Home Minister Amit Shah who is spearheading the BJP campaign in the state.

The court has summoned Shah to appear before it 'personally or through a pleader' on Monday.

Banerjee's lawyer Sanjay Basu had claimed that Shah had made certain defamatory statements against the TMC MP on August 11, 2018, during a BJP rally at Mayo Road in Kolkata.

In a statement on the CBI action, the TMC on Sunday said that people will give a befitting reply to the BJP during the polls.

'So predictable. So desperate. All BJP allies have left them. So the only loyal allies are CBI and ED,' it stated.

'CBI is the only ally of the BJP left,' the party said, adding that it was not scared and will fight it out.

'The way BJP was targeting Abhishek for the last few days prove that they were up to something,' Trinamool Congress spokesperson and MP Sougata Roy said.

The BJP alleged that the TMC was trying to politicise the matter.

'If someone has committed any wrong, then the law will take its course. Those who are culprits should be punished. No one should try to politicise the matter,' BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya told PTI. PTI ABS PNT RT RT