Railway Minister Suranjit Sengupta has defended himself against his alleged links to Monday's cash haul and dismissed it as a conspiracy to ruin his political image. Some people were after him as he has been trying to revive the long-not-cared-for railway sector, he said in a press briefing at Rail Bhaban yesterday. The seizure of money from his assistant personal secretary and the railway general manager on Monday may be part of a conspiracy against him, the minister said. Those, who take advantage of the underdeveloped railway sector for their own benefits, do not want to see it flourish, according to Suranjit.
He, however, clearly said he would resign if his involvement in the incident could be proved. "Accepting a post or leaving it has been a very simple matter in my long career in politics. I will not stay for a moment if any such situation arises."
The drama centring on the railway minister began Monday night when the driver of Suranjit's assistant personal secretary Omar Faruq Talukder pulled over Faruq's microbus at the entrance of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) headquarters in the capital and shouted out there was bribe money stashed in the microbus. Faruq, Railway's General Manager (East) Yusuf Ali Mridha and Dhaka Divisional Commandant Enamul Huq were inside the vehicle at that time.
Enamul Huq, one of the four who were detained by BGB personnel with Tk 70 lakh, on Wednesday said they were heading to the railway minister's residence at the time of the incident, around 11:30pm.
Suranjit's version of that night contradicts this. In the press briefing, he said his APS, Faruq, stays in Mohammadpur where they were heading for. "There is no question of coming to my house since I usually go to bed by 10:00pm," he insisted.
On the way, the minister said, they might have had an argument and ended up entering the BGB headquarters.
He also denied the allegation that he had helped the three [excluding the driver] get released from the BGB custody. "As a minister I can't inquire about their personal life," he said.
Asked about the sources and ownership of the money, he said he had not been in touch with his APS since the seizure of the money. "You can ask the BGB personnel about the money since it has been with them," he said.
About the conspiracy, he said contractors and corrupt employees of the railway sector had stood against him when he had taken up various development projects to revive the railway and free it from corruption.
Suranjit, who took the charge of the newly-created railway ministry in December last year, said, "Corruption was there for a long time. I got a ministry which was formed, splitting the controversial communications ministry."
People, who are beneficiaries of the sorry state of the railway, have plotted to derail his efforts to make the railway profitable. "It is very difficult for a minister alone to fight against the influential quarter.”
"Now I am in the dock,” Suranjit said. “I will accept whatever findings come out in the investigation [into Monday's incident].”
He said he is a politician for 55 years but became a minister only three months ago. "I have never longed for money or power. Rather, I have always been vocal against corruption."
The minister said he has been in politics not to make wealth but serve people. "I have stayed at my Jigatala house even after becoming a minister."
His APS had been suspended but he could not take any action against the GM as it was not under his jurisdiction. "Once I get the primary investigation report I will send it to the higher authority to take action against the GM," Suranjit, also a member of the ruling Awami League's advisory body, told reporters when asked why the GM had not been suspended immediately.
About the recruitment business in the railway, a rumour that followed the incident, he said he had issued an order to form an independent committee to investigate the matter.
Questioning the impartiality of the two committees formed by the minister to probe Monday's incident, Suranjit said the Anti-Corruption Commission decided to investigate the incident. "A judicial inquiry committee can also be formed if the High Court or the Supreme Court decides. We will extend our full cooperation to them to dig up the fact."
The minister asked how a television camera could reach the spot immediately after the incident and why some politicians were trying to cash in on the issue. He requested the media and politicians not to tarnish the image of a politician before he was proved guilty.
Suranjit said he has many political enemies. "The fact and culprits will come out through the investigation. The truth will prevail.”
Terming the money seizure a dangerous incident, he said he was not alone to have fallen victim and that the democracy would also be harmed.
Suranjit said the incident took place ahead of the Dhaka City Corporation polls and some corrupts will take advantage of any embarrassment.