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The man who led to Lalu Prasad's fall

October 04, 2013 12:19 IST

The man who led to Lalu Prasad's fall

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Upendranath Biswas, a minister in the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal, has lent the party an honest and clean image

Apart from identification, names arouse association. The immediate association with Upendranath Biswas, or Upen Biswas as he is better known, is an upright Central Bureau of Investigation officer who blew the lid on the Rs 950-crore fodder scam that implicated Lalu Prasad, recently; the association with the Mamata Banerjee government is feeble, in contrast.

Biswas made headline news when the fodder scam broke in 1996. His junior, who worked with him during the time, recalls how the Indian Police Service officer from the West Bengal cadre pursued the investigation relentlessly as the joint director (east) of the CBI, which ultimately cost Prasad the chief ministership of Bihar.

“The scam could not have been cracked had there been no Upen Biswas. He is honest to the core,” says Samir Ranjan Majumdar, a member of the Special Investigating Team, which was set up to look into the larger conspiracy of the fodder scam under the supervision of Biswas.

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Image: RJD chief and a former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav has been jailed for 5 years in the fodder scam
Photographs: Reuters

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The man who led to Lalu Prasad's fall

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Majumdar would know. After all, he was privy to how Biswas’s investigation report earned the wrath of the political establishment as much as the CBI. A Buddhist by faith, Biswas has often made unconventional choices in life.

His next brush with headline news was many years later, sometime around 2011, when there were murmurs that he would be contesting on a Trinamool Congress ticket. Biswas’s decision to contest the elections was symbolic in a way -- it lent the party an honest and clean image.

He won from the Bagda constituency in the North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal and is minister for backward classes welfare in the Mamata Banerjee government. But, as a minister, he is less heard, and lesser seen.

In the past two years or more, ie, after his name was announced as a candidate, his name has surfaced twice in connection with the party.

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Image: Lalu milks a cow at his residence in Delhi in this 2009 picture
Photographs: Reuters

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One, when Communist Party of India-Marxist leader and former housing minister in the Left Front government, Gautam Deb, alleged that the Trinamool Congress had used black money for poll funding and expenses, and Biswas was the only candidate who refused to accept the money  (the Trinamool Congress has filed a defamation suit against Deb for his allegations). Deb had even offered Biswas’s contact number to mediapersons so that they could confirm with him.

The second time Biswas’s name was seen in the newspapers was when he appreciated Mamata Banerjee’s initiative to rate her ministers according to performance. “I fully support her decision on issuing us report cards. She has brought back the work culture to Writers’ Building,” he had said. That was shortly after the assembly elections of 2011.

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Image: Lalu waves to his supporters outside a court in Ranchi
Photographs: Reuters

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Ever since, however, Biswas has been largely silent, or at least not heard making public statements. He doesn’t make an appearance at Banerjee’s many jamborees featuring intellectuals and celebrities from Tollywood, and occasionally from Bollywood (courtesy Shah Rukh Khan, Kolkata Knight Riders co-owner and the state’s brand ambassador).

As a result of his regular absence, the rumour mills are abuzz. People in Trinamool Congress say that the equation between Biswas and the party leadership is somewhat tenuous now. “He has been invited many times for events, but never turns up, apart from events connected to his department,” says a party insider.

It is also learnt that after the Saradha scam, the party had sought Biswas’s advice on how best to “tackle” the situation in the event of a CBI probe. The minister, however, expressed his inability in providing such advice.

Subsequently, there have been rumblings within the party that the minister does not visit his constituency often enough, though bureaucrats have a different story to tell. “He is one of the most professional ministers in the current dispensation, his department has done a lot of good work,” says one of them.

According to the Trinamool Congress website, among the achievements of the backward classes welfare department are: it has issued 706,071 caste certificates, and has commenced online processing of applications in more than 35 subdivisions of the state. Perhaps, it will provide some fodder for thought to the people who matter.

 

 


Image: Upendranath Biswas never makes an appearance at any public events of the Trinamool


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