Suranjit Sengupta's changing statements with the unfolding of the drama over the April 9 railwaygate scandal has raised questions about the credibility of the veteran politician.
It all began with the midnight recovery of Tk 70 lakh from the microbus of his close aide after the driver reportedly pulled over inside the Pilkhana BGB headquarters in the capital and its driver hollered that there was stash of bribe money in the vehicle.
BGB personnel on guard found Tk 70 lakh in the car. The money had allegedly been collected as bribe from railway job seekers.
At first Suranjit strongly defended his aides--Assistant Private Secretary (APS) Omar Faruq Talukder and Railway General Manager (East) Yusuf Ali Mridha and Dhaka Division Security Commandant Enamul Huq who were in the car that night.
He then dismissed his possible links to the scandal terming it conspiracy against him and promised to quit if needed, took a turnaround from the stance on the very next day; sacked his APS and suspended two other aides; and finally stepped down from his office on Monday.
On April 10, the day after the incident, Suranjit told the media that it is not illegal to carry money in the country, adding that he heard that the driver was trying to rob the money from his APS.
He also said he has a specific working hour, and it is not his responsibility to keep track of his aides after that hour.
Moving away from this stance, the former minister on the very next day told journalists at the Jatiya Sangshad Bhaban that he had asked Faruq and Yousuf not to come to work until further notice.
Saying that the incident was “unwarranted” and has happened before in the country, Suranjit had said that the incident had created “problems” for him and he would face it.
As questions arose about his possible links to the scandal that was hauled, Suranjit on April 12 dismissed the allegation terming it 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 on that day.
He, however, clearly said he would resign if his involvement in the incident could be proved. "I will not stay for a moment if any such situation arises."
Suranjit took a complete U-turn on the very next day on April 13 and outright rejected the notion of quitting.
He told the BBC: “You mentioned that a railway officer was involved in the incident along with the APS and his car and if it is so, then where is my involvement? Why is there the question of resignation?”
He said, “The Border Guard Bangladesh headquarters is a restricted area after 10:00pm. How did the car enter that area? Who let them in? Why did they stay there the whole night? The answers to these questions are needed. Who gave the money, where was it given, where did it come from?
“There is so much talk regarding the driver but is it not a mystery that he cannot be traced?”
On April 15, Suranjit announced that his then APS Omar Faruq was sacked and Yusuf Ali Mridha and Enamul Huq were suspended in connection with the railwaygate scandal.
He also announced that recruitment of around 3,500 posts in the railway ministry had been suspended, and that legal action would be taken against the trio.
Suranjit, however, avoided making direct replies on why Mridha and Enamul were suspended, and not fired.
He stepped down the next day taking full responsibility for the scandal surrounding the cash haul.
“At the meeting with the prime minister on Sunday night, I told her that I wanted to relieve myself of the charge of the railway ministry, and she happily accepted it,” a pale-looking Suranjit told a press briefing at the Rail Bhaban on the afternoon that day.
“As a minister, I'm responsible for all good and bad things in my ministry.”
He however insisted that the vehicle with the money was not heading for his Jigatola residence in the capital, contrary to the claims of the APS and two other railway officials travelling in the microbus.
The seven-time parliamentarian from Sunamganj in the northeast region also hoped that the “truth” would emerge through the inquiry.