Three Congress MLAs from Jharkhand were arrested on Sunday in West Bengal’s Howrah district after a huge amount of cash was recovered from their vehicle, a senior police officer said. Around Rs 49 lakh in cash was recovered from their SUV, which was intercepted on National Highway-16 at Ranihati in the Panchla police station area on Saturday evening, he added.
MLAs Irfan Ansari, Rajesh Kachchap and Naman Bixal Kongari, and two other persons, including their driver, were arrested after they failed to answer the police as to why they were carrying such a huge amount of cash, the police officer said.
“They could not state the reason for carrying such a huge amount of cash. We are not satisfied by their claim that they came here to purchase sarees meant to be distributed among tribal women. We have arrested them for further investigation,” the officer told PTI.
The state CID has taken over the investigation from the Howrah Rural Police, he said.
The five persons, including the MLAs, have been booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including that for criminal conspiracy, and the Prevention of Corruption Act, he added. The arrests were made after the MLAs were questioned throughout the night.
BJP trying to topple coalition govt: Congress
The Congress has alleged that the BJP is trying to topple its coalition government with Hemant Soren’s JMM in Jharkhand with the help of these MLAs. Each MLA was allegedly offered Rs 10 crore in cash and a ministerial berth if the BJP forms a government in the state.
The BJP has rubbished the allegations, claiming that the Congress is defaming it to hide corruption within the party.
One more MLA Congress says he was offered bribe
Meanwhile, MLA from Bermo, Kumar Jaimangal, has filed a police complaint in Ranchi, alleging he was offered Rs 10 crore by the BJP to defect and help topple the JMM-Congress government in Jharkhand. He claimed Ansari, Kachchap and Kongari asked him to join them in Kolkata, from where they were to go to Guwahati to meet Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and discuss the defection plan further.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi earlier suspended with immediate effect the three Congress MLAs from primary membership of the party.
Congress general secretary in-charge of Jharkhand, Avinash Pande, said: “The three MLAs were in touch with the BJP for some time and had been repeatedly been warned by the Congress leadership against such activities. The BJP was pressurising these MLAs to also convince other MLAs of our party to defect and the money seized is perhaps only the first instalment.”
“They would have got more money to lure other MLAs if they were not apprehended in Kolkata. The senior-most leaders of the BJP, the CM of a BJP-ruled state, senior officials from the CBI, ED and the Union law ministry have been working in coordination to put pressure on our MLAs to defect to the BJP.”
“I am in touch with all other MLAs of the party. There is no threat to our government in Jharkhand. Stern and immediate action will be taken against any other party MLA found involved in any negotiation with the BJP, the suspended MLAs or in anti-party activities,” Pande added.