HindustanTimes Tue,25 Nov 2014

Saradha probe may hurt TMC in Delhi and at home

Ravik Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, May 09, 2014
First Published: 23:49 IST(9/5/2014) | Last Updated: 23:52 IST(9/5/2014)

Probably for the first time in her political career, Trinamool Congress boss Mamata Banerjee is facing something that she cannot steamroll into nothing. For, it’s the CBI now that will probe Saradha, besides 17 other chit fund companies in the state.

The probe could not have come at a worse time — 30 hours before 17 seats go to the polls in south Bengal — and as Banerjee is trying to cash in on her clean image to get a toehold in national politics.

She is trying to project herself as being different from several leaders of regional parties in the Hindi heartland, who have been probed by the CBI for alleged corruption.

The party is also scared that after May 16, whichever party comes in striking distance of power may even play the CBI card to secure the TMC’s support. A senior MP of the TMC admitted: “Now, it may be difficult for us to dictate terms in Delhi. Irrespective of which party comes to power, they will try to harass our leaders and arm-twist us.”

Back home too, with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls next year, followed by the crucial assembly polls in 2016, the TMC worries that even interrogations of its top leaders may affect the party’s prospects.

Although Banerjee argued that it mattered little who did the investigation, state government lawyers spent the past few months opposing any suggestion of a CBI investigation into the scam.

Banerjee, however, had to keep the facade intact during the poll season. “We welcome the CBI probe. The culprits should be identified and arrested. We have already returned money to 4.5 lakh Saradha victims,” she said at a rally in Murshidabad on Friday.

But she said it’s now the onus of the CBI to return money to the depositors. “And if it cannot, the victims will go to the residences of the leaders of the Congress, CPM and the BJP.”

The party has already assigned state finance minister and national spokesperson Amit Mitra to speak on the issue and asked others to keep mum. During the next few months and even years, the opposition will have a ready issue to bother the Trinamool chief — a heady mix of big money, lakhs of ruined small depositors, about a hundred suicides and the shady roles of the ruling party members.

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