The Rs. 20,000-crore Saradha chit fund scam that hit about 1.7 million small investors — mostly in south Bengal — is dominating the poll scenario in West Bengal, with other issues such as lack of development, unemployment, unruly leaders of the ruling party and crimes against women, fading out.
The Enforcement Directorate’s fresh initiative has once again brought the issue to limelight along with the possibility of a CBI probe. The suicide of a Saradha victim in Canning in South 24 Parganas on Friday will also feature in the opposition campaign for the rest three phases.
As electioneering moves to the 32 seats in the south Bengal districts of Burdwan, Birbhum, Nadia, Hooghly and North and South 24 Parganas — a TMC stronghold and the hunting ground of former Ponzi king Sudipta Sen — the opposition parties are getting shriller on the issue.
They are planning slogans and cartoons at rallies in south Bengal, and candidates have also been asked to step up the pressure on this issue.
It is in south Bengal where TMC chief and CM Mamata Banerjee hopes to increase her Lok Sabha tally from 19 seats in 2009. But Ritesh Tiwari, BJP state secretary and spokesperson, said, “During our campaign, we will raise questions on why is the TMC scared of a CBI probe and who were hand-in-glove with Sudipto Sen?”
For the BJP, Congress and the CPI(M), the chit fund scam is going to be the top of the campaign agenda unlike the initial phases in the north where lack of development, demand for a separate state and terror were main issues.
“It is the most important issue right now in Bengal and we will definitely highlight how TMC leaders were involved in the scam,” Adhir Chowdhury, state Congress president, told HT.
Already, the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi have been accusing Banerjee’s government of having a direct role in the scam.
Asim Dasgupta, former finance minister and CPI(M) candidate from Dumdum constituency, said, “The state government never took any step when such companies were operating. During our time, we shut down Ponzi operations like Sanchaita. This issue will definitely have an impact on the voters.”