New Delhi: Trinamool Congress national spokesperson Saket Gokhale was arrested by Gujarat Police late Monday night, the party has said in a statement.
“Saket took a 9 pm flight from New Delhi to Jaipur on Monday. When he landed, Gujarat Police were at the airport in Rajasthan waiting for him and picked him up,” Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien, the Trinamool’s parliamentary leader in Rajya Sabha, said Tuesday.
He added: “At 2 am in the morning on Tuesday, he called his Ma (mother) and told her that they are taking him to Ahmedabad and he would reach Ahmedabad by noon today (Tuesday). The police let him make that one two-minute phone call and then confiscated his phone and all his belongings.”
According to sources in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party in power in Gujarat, the cyber cell of Gujarat police filed a case against the RTI activist turned politician last week, for tweeting about expenses allegedly incurred for PM Modi’s trip to Morbi in Gujarat, where the collapse of a suspension bridge in October killed at least 141 people, including minors.
Last week Gokhale, purportedly quoting from a Right to Information (RTI) response, had claimed “Modi’s visit to Morbi for a few hours cost Rs 30 crore.” The Trimalool Congress leader had added that around Rs 5.5 crore was spent just on welcoming the PM to Morbi, event management and photography. In comparison, he wrote, the victims had got only Rs 4 lakhs each as compensation.
RTI reveals that Modi’s visit to Morbi for a few hours cost ₹30 cr.
Of this, ₹ 5.5cr was purely for “welcome, event management, & photography”.
135 victims who died got ₹4 lac ex-gratia each i.e. ₹5 cr.
Just Modi’s event management & PR costs more than life of 135 people. pic.twitter.com/b4YNi1uB9c
— Saket Gokhale (@SaketGokhale) December 1, 2022
Gujarat’s state BJP unit had, however, immediately issued a statement refuting the charges calling it “fake” news and claiming that no such RTI was ever filed.
This is FAKE NEWS.
No such RTI has been done.
No such news has been published.
It is fully fabricated.
— BJP Gujarat (@BJP4Gujarat) December 1, 2022
A senior leader of the BJP’s Gujarat unit told ThePrint that the party had filed an FIR against Gokhale on 1 December.
Senior Trinamool leaders called the case registered against Gokhale a “cooked-up” one. O’Brien in his statement added, “The cooked-up case is filed with the Ahmedabad cyber cell about Saket’s tweet on the Morbi bridge collapse. All this cannot silence the All India Trinamool Congress and the Opposition. BJP is taking political vendetta to another level.”
Gokhale, an RTI activist, joined Trinamool Congress in August last year.
The arrest comes at a time when West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee is on a three-day trip to Delhi to attend the PM’s G20 meeting. India assumed the presidency of the G20 group of nations this month.
Banerjee will also chair her party’s parliament strategy meeting while in Delhi and is scheduled to visit the Ajmer Sharif and shrines in Pushkar, both in Rajasthan, Tuesday. Gokhale had landed in Jaipur Monday night to oversee the arrangements for the West Bengal CM’s visit, said a source in Trinamool Congress.
“The Gujarat police were waiting at the airport and the Rajasthan police were in the loop. We will take this up legally and politically,” a senior Trinamool Congress leader told ThePrint.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)