TT, Calcutta, July 12: A Trinamul Congress councillor in Salt Lake was arrested today on chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s instructions after Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina complained that one of her friends in the township was not being allowed to carry out construction in his house because he had refused to meet an extortion demand.
Hasina’s friend had not lodged a formal complaint with police. So, Anindya Chatterjee, the councillor of Ward 41 of the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation, was booked on the basis of a complaint lodged by another Salt Lake resident from whom he had allegedly demanded Rs 12 lakh.
Sources said the chief minister was livid after she had to hear from the Prime Minister of a neighbouring country about the alleged deeds of a councillor of her own party.
Chatterjee had allegedly sought Rs 15 lakh from Mumbai resident Arunabha Mukherjee, who wanted to repair his house in Salt Lake’s AC block.
The councillor was summoned to Bidhannagar North police station and arrested after he was questioned. “We arrested him on the basis of a complaint lodged by Santosh Lodh, a resident of AE block,” said Santosh Pandey, deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Bidhannagar.
Chatterjee was booked under several Indian Penal Code sections that deal with extortion and threats. He could be jailed for up to 10 years if proved guilty.
In his complaint, Lodh mentioned that he was repairing a two-storey house in BD block when Chatterjee’s associates asked the family to stop work. They allegedly took away several bags of cement and sand from the construction site and asked the labourers not to work there if they valued their lives.
Salt Lake abounds with accounts of Chatterjee’s alleged extortion.
In Trinamul, North 24-Parganas party president Jyotipriya Mullick was his mentor. His support helped Chatterjee get a ticket for the Bidhannagar civic body in 2010.
Five years on, Chatterjee’s supporters had unleashed widespread violence in Salt Lake to ensure his re-election. When repolls took place in three of the violence-scarred booths, Chatterjee lost all three. He won three other booths by wide margins and won the ward by a margin of only 852 votes.
Ward 41 comprises the blocks between AA and BD. Since he became councillor, a BC block resident alleged, “bikers would move around every block looking for signs that construction work was about to begin” – like materials dumped outside as in Lodh’s case or a soil test as in Mukherjee’s.
But Chatterjee had a free run until Hasina stepped in.
A complaint that was gathering dust in the mayor’s office since May was dusted and turned into an FIR on Tuesday.
According to police sources, Bidhannagar police commissioner Gyanwant Singh called the inspector in charge of Bidhannagar North police station, Seshadri Mukherjee, and asked him to treat Lodh’s complaint letter, forwarded by the corporation’s commissioner, as an FIR and arrest Chatterjee “immediately”.
Seshadri called Chatterjee and asked him to visit the police station. Chatterjee was arrested at 10.35am and a court sent him to judicial custody till July 26.
During hearing, public prosecutor Sabir Ali opposed the bail plea, saying: “The accused had extorted money from several others and it will come out shortly during the course of investigation. He is a guardian of a ward and such an allegation against him was not expected.”
Trinamul cadres had stopped Lodh’s construction work in March. In May, the veteran Congress leader, bed-ridden after a cerebral attack three days after the goons came calling at his door, lodged a complaint with Trinamul’s Calcutta North MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay, whom he had known for many years.
Insiders in Trinamul said Lodh’s complaint was forwarded to Bidhannagar mayor Sabyasachi Dutta, not to the police.
“The complaint letter was gathering dust at the corporation until the chief minister intervened following her conversation with the Bangladesh Prime Minister,” said a senior Trinamul leader.
The chief minister wanted Chatterjee to resign but he did not. “At the birthday celebrations for Mullick’s grandchild, Mamata reminded Mullick that she was unhappy with Chatterjee.”
During a private chat on the day of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation budget on June 23, Mamata had told a close circle how disgusted she was with some of the councillors.
“She went on to say how she was sick and tired of receiving complaints daily against councillors who are busy making money misusing their power,” a Trinamul insider said.