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Meet Bengal’s Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid

Top 5Meet Bengal’s Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid

Two members of Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Con- gress who formed a team of outlaws like Butch Cas- sidy and Sundance Kid are under arrest for a string of financial scandals. Their arrests and subsequent confessions have turned into a facepalm moment for the state government.

The teacher selection scam is the latest scandal to hit the Trinamool Congress (TMC). Many TMC func- tionaries and former min-

isters have been questioned for months, some arrested and put in judicial cus- tody for their involvement in this scandal and other scandals like that of illegal coal supplies, cow smug- gling and Ponzi schemes.

The Enforcement Direc- torate (ED) claims it has found strong links to mon- ey laundering of this sleaze cash. As per information reaching the national capi- tal, ED head Sanjay Mishra andatopteamofEDof- ficials from Delhi and Kol- kata are currently investi-gating the scandal in which TMC functionaries had fleeced gullible job seekers.

The two TMC members worked in close tandem and remained in touch with each other through WhatsApp chats and Facetime conversations and took cash from people seeking jobs in state gov- ernment-run schools in Bengal. Thousands paid cash in the hope of such jobs. Bribes for such jobs allegedly ranged between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 20 lakh, with the scam estimated at a few hundred crores of rupees, ED officials told the courts in Kolkata.

Butch Cassidy and the Sun- dance Kid is a 1969 film about Wild West bandits who commit a string of train robberies and even- tually flee to Bolivia to es- cape the law in the United States. Much like the two characters in the movie, the two TMC functionaries hoodwinked officers of the investigating agencies for more than three years by shifting homes.

One of the two is Sujoy Krishna Bhadra, 61, who once owned a small grocery store in the Kalighat neigh- bourhood famous for the iconic Kali temple and Nir- mal Hriday, the first home for the destitute set up by Mother Teresa in Kolkata. Bengal Chief Minister Ma- mata Banerjee also stays with her family in Kalighat. The other is Kuntal Ghosh, whose company made music videos and short films for the domes- tic market. He has told ED officials and those from the Central Bureau of Investi- gation (CBI) that he used the cash to buy high-end cars for film stars in Kolka- ta. He did not say if the film stars paid for the expensive vehicles or if the vehicles were gifted to them by the party.Unlike the low profile

Bhadra, fondly called Kaku, which stands for fa- ther’s younger brother in Bengal, Ghosh was flashy and wore blue and yellow jackets and routinely at- tended all film events in the city. He also worked very closely with top party officials and was the go- to-man for projects that required clearances from the state government. It is alleged that he always worked with bribes and shared the cash with top TMC leaders.

In a job-starved Bengal, everyone lines up outside homes of politicians or party functionaries to seek favours. When the Ponzi scam erupted in the state, it was found that officials of top football clubs had taken cash in gunny bags to run the clubs. Some of the club officials were even jailed and are now out on bail. Bhadra started work- ing with TMC in 2008 and kept a low profile till 2015. He slowly became popular in Kalighat and operated

Kuntal Ghosh

as a director of a company, Leaps & Bounds. BJP lead- er Suvendu Adhikari al- leged some people known to Abhishek Banerjee, Ma- mata Banerjee’s nephew, were directors in Leaps & Bounds. Bhadra later started another company, Solitaire Placement Ser- vices. Bhadra used to stay in a small, two-room house with his family next to his grocery store. He later shifted to a swanky double storey building at Behala in south Kolkata. He named his house Radharani, after the Hindu goddess and the chief consort of Lord Krish- na. He was once called BhadraDa, but later be- came popular as Kalighat- er Kaku that translates into the Uncle of Kalighat. Neighbours told televi- sion channels in Kolkata that Bhadra was a very ac- tive TMC functionary who would meet visitors till late hours at his home. During elections, Bhadra would spend months in Kalighat. Both Ghosh and Bhadra have told ED officials that they worked closely with Abhishek Banerjee, the powerful nephew of CM Mamata Banerjee. Bhadra even told ED officials that he used to call Abhishek Banerjee “the boss” and was very close to him. The CBI on 20 May 2023, ques- tioned Banerjee for over nine hours. Ghosh is un- der judicial custody while Bhadra is in ED custody. Ghosh, who often claimed to party juniors that he was

above law, continued to ex- tort cash from candidates even after their appoint- ments were struck down by the Calcutta High Court. The ED said as many as 40-50 people received cash from Ghosh and the ED suspects the bank transfers were made out of the illegal cash Ghosh earned from the candidates.

The ED claimed in court that Ghosh collected Rs 20 lakh from each job seeker and had deposited some Rs 6.5 crore in two banks. Ghosh further told the ED that he had paid loads of cash to Bhadra and former state education minister Partha Chatterjee. The cash was then transferred to other bank accounts for investment purposes. “The accounts of those who re- ceived cash from Ghosh are being scrutinised,” an ED official told this reporter. The ED official further said that Ghosh confessed he met Bhadra with a list of 2014 TET examination candidates and Bhadra had told him he would en- sure ineligible candidates got the jobs after speaking to some TMC ministers. Ghosh further told the ED officials that Bhadra was instrumental in getting over 300 ineligible candi- dates’ jobs in state govern- ment-run schools.

The official further said that allegations against Bhadra was that he shared admit cards, names and details of candidates with a TMC leader to get them

Sujoy Krishna Bhadra

jobs in schools for cash. Bhadra initially tried to avoid questions and feigned ignorance. That did not work because the ED officials showed him WhatsApp messages he had exchanged with Ghosh and other TMC function- aries. Thereafter, Bhadra said he was not well and should be taken to a hos- pital. The ED officials then returned with a court order that said Bhadra was try- ing to hoodwink the ED officials. Bhadra fell in line. The ED officials—it is reli- ably learnt—roped in his daughter who urged her father to cooperate with the investigating agencies, and also take meals at regular intervals.

Interestingly, Bhadra managed to remain under the radar of the investigat- ing agencies for long. But last month, TMC function- ary Tapas Mondal—also arrested in the teachers’ recruitment scam—named Bhadra during interroga- tion. Mondal, president of the association of Bengal’s private-run colleges and institutions, had accused Ghosh of raising cash from job seekers during his in- terrogation with the inves- tigation agencies. Ghosh said he raised cash for Bhadra and worked closely with him, paying him regu- larly. Another TMC func- tionary who told ED of- ficials that Bhadra used to take sleaze cash was Gopal Dalapati.

This is just one side of the story. During its inves- tigations into the teacher recruitment scam, the CBI claimed more than Rs 100 crore was allegedly raised by TMC leaders from job aspirants to employ them as teachers and staff at state-run schools across Bengal between 2014 and 2021. Last year, former state education minister Partha Chatterjee was ar- rested in the School Service Commission recruitment for Classes IX-XII, bringing the TMC government un- der attack from the BJP-led Opposition.

The investigating agen- cies recovered huge cash from the residence of Chat- terjee aide Arpita Mukher- jee. The CBI was directed in May last year to probe the appointment of non- teaching staff (Group C and D) and teaching staff by the West Bengal School Ser- vice Commission (SSC) and West Bengal Board of Sec- ondary Education between 2014 and 2021. Members of the Left Front are elated at the arrests. Some members of the CPI(M) even visited Delhi’s Tihar Jail to offer puffed rice and jaggery to Anubrata Mondal, another top TMC functionary, cur- rently held inside the na- tional capital’s maximum- security prison for his alleged involvement in ille- gal coal and cow smuggling rackets. The CPM activists said they had come to of- fer Mondal his staple food. TMC officials saw it as an act of sarcasm.


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