The Enforcement Directorate on Thursday summoned senior Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee, asking him to appear before its officers on June 13 in connection with its investigation into the primary school jobs scam in West Bengal.
Banerjee, considered number two in the party, declined to comply with the notice, citing his engagement with an ongoing mass outreach campaign and upcoming panchayat polls.
The notice was served hours after the central agency grilled Banerjee's wife Rujira for nearly four hours in connection with the coal pilferage case.
"Abhishek Banerjee has been asked to appear before our officers on June 13 at our Kolkata office at 11 am. We have called him for questioning for the alleged illegal appointments in different state-run and -aided schools," an ED official told PTI.
The officer said that the questioning will mainly be focussed on inputs received from arrested accused Sujay Krishan Bhadra aka 'Kalighat er Kaku" (uncle of Kalighat) and Kuntal Ghosh.
"We needed to cross-check him on the answers from Mr Bhadra and Mr Ghosh. We also have questions based on our findings of the scam," he said.
The TMC MP was grilled by Central Bureau of Investigation officers at their Kolkata office for over nine hours on May 20 in connection with their investigation into the primary school jobs scam.
Later in the night, while addressing a press conference in Nadia district, Banerjee said “he does not have time to waste” as he considers the questioning “pointless”.
“Today my wife was questioned. The ED then sent me a notice to appear before it on June 13. Let me make it very clear that I am not a servant of the BJP, that I have to appear before the (central) agencies whenever they want.
“I won't be able to go to the ED office as I will be busy with the mass outreach programme and campaigning for the panchayat polls which will be held on July 8,” he said.
Banerjee, the TMC national general secretary, expressed his willingness to cooperate with the ED by providing it required documents and said he could "attend the questioning only after the conclusion of the panchayat polls".
He said he is not obligated to appear before investigative agencies at their whims.
“These are just attempts to stop the successful mass outreach campaign. But such tricks won't work,” Banerjee said.
“Every time, central agencies have summoned me, I have cooperated with them. But there should be a limit to this harassment. Last time, the CBI summoned me, they wasted my nine hours,” he said.
The ED has so far arrested West Bengal's former education minister Partha Chatterjee, his friend, and several TMC leaders including MLAs and education department officials for their alleged involvement in the multi-crore scam.
The CBI and the ED are investigating the case and the alleged money trail involved in it on orders of the Calcutta high court.