After the top leaders of Trinamool Congress distanced themselseves from state minister Partha Chatterjee following the latter's arrest by the ED in connection with the teacher recruitment scam, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday made it clear that the onus of the scam lies with Chatterjee and his close associate Arpita Mukherjee.
Breaking her silence on the issue during a state government event to felicitate acclaimed persons from different fields, Banerjee said, "Supporting corruption is neither my passion nor my habit. I cannot say that everyone is innocent. I want to clearly say that the money recovered from the residence of a woman (Arpita Mukherjee in this case) has no connection either with the Trinamool or the state government.
"If anyone is found guilty, let him be imprisoned for life. But I am saddened by the way my name is being dragged into the issue of recovery of cash. I will not tolerate such false propaganda any more."
The Chief Minister also referred to a viral video, where she could be seen sharing the dais with Arpita Mukherjee during the inauguration ceremony of a Durga Puja.
"I go for inauguration of many pujas. How am I supposed to know whom the organisers have invited? How could I know that she was Partha's friend? I do not spare even my partymen if they are at fault. I do not and will not spare my own minister if found guilty," Banerjee said.
The Chief Minister's attempts to disown Chatterjee became evident when she blamed a section of the media for allegedly linking her and Trinamool Congress with the cash recovery from Mukherjee's residence.
"Why are you all dragging me and the Trinamool Congress in this issue? You should write against the person who is responsible for these irregularities. Stop dragging me into the matter," Banerjee said.
Meanwhile, party insiders said the Chief Minister is miffed about the entire incident, especially after it was revealed that ED's arrest memo for Chatterjee had her name and phone number in it as the contact person.
Reacting to Banerjee's comments, the leader of opposition in the state Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, said the Chief Minister is trying to save her own skin by putting the entire onus on Chatterjee.
"She (Banerjee) is claiming that she was not aware that Arpita Mukherjee was Partha Chatterjee's friend. But in that same programme, she could be heard praising Mukherjee and even referring to her fluency in Odia language. What is the Chief Minister trying to prove," Adhikari asked.