Rahul-Mamata war of words over Saradha scam

Like a Shakespearean ghost, the Saradha issue seems to have suddenly resurfaced to haunt the ruling party of Bengal, Trinamool Congress. Saradha chit fund scam worth approximately 18 thousand crores came into public domain last year. Surprisingly it failed to become a major issue relevant to the voters in the Panchayat polls. But all this can change with Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee getting involved in a bitter war of words over Saradha scam.

War of words
In a direct attack on Mamata government, Rahul Gandhi said in an election rally that the state is dilly dallying with the entire investigation of Saradha scam. He accused the Bengal government of putting impediment to the works of CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED). In a significant remark he said that government is stalling investigation as they may be exposed (unka pol khul jayegi).
Just hours after Rahul said these words in Maldah, TMC chief hit back at him. Mamata categorically said that she is no Mayavati or Mulayam who can be coerced with the fear of CBI. She in turn accused the Finance Ministry and market regulator SEBI of not doing enough to check the menace of chit fund. She said that chit funds mushroomed in the Left regime and only the current government has taken steps to stop it. Mamata dragged the name of Union Finaance Minister Chidambaram and his family in the whole debate. Incidentally, a letter had earlier surfaced allegedly written by Sudipto Sen, owner of Saradha. In that letter, name of Chidambaram’s wife was mentioned in some context. Mamata said that Chidambaram has run away from the electoral battlefield anticipating defeat.

TMC’s Sharadha headache
The issue is particularly sensitive to the ruling party as one of its MP; Kunal Bose is currently in jail over alleged involvement in the scam. There is a needle of suspicion over several other leaders and businessmen close to TMC about how much they knew about the activities of Saradha . Sudipto Sen, the kingpin of Saradha group had set up a huge empire. From real estate to automobile, he had money invested across different verticals. Incidentally Sudipto also had a media network with bouquet of newspapers and TV channels. According to allegations, all these business were fonts for the elaborate Ponzi scheme he orchestrated to take money from unsuspecting poor promising bumper gains. When the scheme failed, Saradha Group also broke down like pack of cards.
The opponents allege that TMC leaders were well informed about the modus operandi of Saradha. They say that top party functionaries intentionally looked the other way to give the chit fund a free run and even tacitly helped them to prosper.

Why the issue resurfaced
The obvious answer is that it is election time. There seems to be certain amount of urban disenchantment with the Mamata government and the Saradha scam if used effectively can sway some middle class voters. But the more important thing is Supreme Court is likely to give its verdict on the need for CBI probe in Saradha scam on 23rd April, a day before next round of polling. A CBI probe in this critical juncture can become an albatross round Mamata’s neck.
TMC chief though personally incorruptible may well have to fight a perception battle for alleged misdeed of some of her party mates. There are reports that ED may summon some top TMC leaders in the coming days. The opposition leaders are smacking their lips in anticipation. They want to hype it up for the big prize in 2016, Assembly elections. Didi has gone into offensive to protect her turf. It may well be a battle that determines the course of the state in future.

Related Information:

WB Election Results 2014

Lok Sabha Election Results