New Delhi/Kolkata, April 26: The Congress and West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress Saturday engaged in a bitter spat over the Saradha scam, accusing each other’s leaders of involvement in the state’s biggest scam. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram Saturday joined the attack against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the multicrore rupee Saradha chit fund scandal, questioning why she was taking the side of those charged with “wrongdoing”.
Chidambaram’s comments coincided with Congress national spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi lambasting the West Bengal regime and Banerjee for “hiding facts” and “desperately trying to protect” tainted Trinamool members and leaders by “vehemently opposing” a Central Bureau of Investigation probe.
The Trinamool hit back by alleging that “leading lights” of the Communist Party of India-Marxist and Congress itself were involved in the scam which has been hogging the limelight in the ongoing Lok Sabha poll campaign in the eastern state after the central agency Enforcement Directorate recently arrested the wife and son of purported Saradha scam kingpin Sudipta Sen.
Addressing the media in New Delhi, Chidambaram countered Banerjee’s demand that his wife Nalini Chidambaram should be arrested as her name figured in a letter written to the CBI by Sen before his arrest last April. “The chief minister of course is free to make allegation. But why is the chief minister so concerned about people, rightly or wrongly I don’t know, charged with wrongdoing? The chief minister should be concerned with the victims of the wrongdoing.”
Defending his wife, Chidambaram said she appeared as a professional advising a woman who was exploring “some industrial opportunities with Mr Sen”. He said while her remuneration was paid by a cheque, the issue was clarified nine months ago.
On Banerjee’s allegation that he had instructed the ED to step up the probe ahead of the polls, the minister said he did not monitor individual cases. “I don’t monitor or give direction to any individual cases. And this particular case happens to be a case where the Calcutta High Court has passed an order, and there is some petition pending in the Supreme Court.”
In Kolkata, Singhvi went all guns blazing. “In the Supreme Court, the most vehement opposition to any part of the inquiry being conducted by the CBI is coming from the state government,” he told media persons. “Why is the state government so keen to hide things for a scam of this proportion? Why are they not prepared to leave criminality to an agency like the CBI?” he asked.
“There are MPs from the Trinamool, contesting candidates, political leaders from the state…all are involved.” Taking a dig at Banerjee’s claim of personal honesty and maintaining an austere lifestyle, he said: “What is the use of talking about simplicity, cleanliness, when you don’t have the moral and political courage to act against your own people, who have defrauded the poor people of the state about whom you shed crocodile tears every day?”
The Trinamool responded to the twin attacks by iterating it did not “trust” the CBI, calling it the “Congress Bureau of investigation”. In a joint statement, Trinamool national spokespersons Derek O`Brien and Amit Mitra said the state government arrested Sen and appointed a judicial commission that has already compensated four lakh investors.
In contrast the legislation sent by the Mamata Banerjee regime to the central government for presidential assent on the chit fund issue was still pending in Delhi. BJP president Nitin Gadkari told the media in Kolkata that Banerjee should agree to a CBI probe into the scam to uphold her government’s image as all other states affected by the scandal has consented to it.
The Saradha scam — the biggest such scandal to hit the state — came to light in April last year when the company closed shop across Bengal, unable to pay back depositors, many of whom were from poorer sections of society. As the company went bust, many agents and investors committed suicide, and protests took place across the state.