September 14, 2014

WEST BENGAL: Saradha Money Used in 2011 Elections

From Our Special Correspondent in Kolkata

INVESTIGATIONS into the Saradha Chit Fund scam has exposed that a huge sum from the fraudulent business was spent to ensure the victory of Trinamool Congress in 2011 West Bengal assembly elections. According to media reports quoting investigation agency sources and depositions by some of the accused, at least Rs 130 crores was supplied to the TMC before the elections. It has been also reported that the TMC candidates received a part of this money for spending in the campaign.

2011 assembly elections in the state was a desperate battle to oust the Left Front government. It witnessed widest possible anti-Left unity. Apart from political parties and groups, a section of the intelligentsia participated in the virulent campaign against the CPI(M) and the Left Front. The elections also saw unprecedented use of money power by the forces of the so-called ‘change’.

The CPI(M) had said, even before the elections, that huge sums of money was distributed by the TMC leaders in illegal ways. That this money flow was related to chit funds was also highlighted by the Party.

As the CBI and the ED delved into the money trail of the biggest ever financial scam in the state, the political connection became evident. It has now come into light that crores of rupees were transferred to the TMC coffer in cash. Evil nexus between the TMC and the Saradha group continued and developed after the TMC came into power.

According to media reports quoting SFIO (Serious Fraud Investigation Organisation) investigation report, hundreds of crores of rupees were stashed in foreign accounts through hawala transactions. TMC leaders, including parliamentarians played an active role in these illegal transactions.  

An unprecedented scam of approximately Rs 25,000 crores or may be more than that, has pauperised nearly two million people of not just West Bengal but neighbouring eastern states also. It had shaken the state's politico-economic scenario two years back when the financial institution Saradha group of industries had been liquidated for not paying back the investors’ money. The primary investigation had unearthed direct political association of Trinamool Congress with Saradha group of companies in terms of financial dealings by siphoning off thousands of crores of rupees. Despite protests and demands for CBI enquiry, the state government had refused to hand-over the investigation to the CBI. The Supreme Court however had expressed its displeasure over how the Special Investigation Team (SIT) was functioning.

In May 2014, the Supreme Court transferred all investigations into 44 deposit mobilising companies, including Saradha Group of Companies, suspected of running ponzi schemes in the states of West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Jharkhand and Tripura, to CBI.

Now, as investigation progresses, one after another leader of the  TMC is getting into trouble. The CBI arrested senior TMC leader Rajat Majumdar. He is a former IPS officer who retired as a DG of state armed police and later served as ‘security advisor’ of Saradha, drawing sky-rocketing salary. He is the first TMC leader to be arrested by the CBI in connection with the ponzi scam. Srinjoy Basu, Trinamool MP of Rajya Sabha was summoned and interrogated by the CBI.  

In fact, knocking at chief minister Mamata Banerjee's door is not a distant possibility now. Her name came surfacing in Saradha Ponzi scam in a regular manner, starting from the sale of her painting to IRCTC-Saradha joint scheme during her term in the rail ministry. Her claim of ‘not knowing’ the name of Saradha met a dead-end with that development in the investigation. Her government was against the CBI probe into the scam from the very beginning. Now one can easily make out the intentions that governed such opposition by the government to a CBI enquiry. The opposition parties in West Bengal have claimed that in Delo, North Bengal there was a meeting held with Saradha CMD where the CM herself was present. As the CBI and the ED move forth in the investigations, this claim might come out being a fact. With a number of TMC MPs summoned and held behind the bars, with the lists of names of TMC leaders allegedly connected with the Saradha Ponzi scam including the names of its general secretary Mukul Ray and its MIC Madan Mitra, the name of the TMC supremo might make it to the headlines any day.

But as for now, it can be said that her model of advertising branded with ‘Sototar Protik’ (icon of honesty) has met its doom. People of West Bengal have already branded their CM with ‘Saradhar Protik’ (icon of Saradha). Only time and the intentions of the central government would make it clear if the real fraudsters behind the Saradha Ponzi scam get sentence or not.

That the TMC government was born with the help of fraudulent money has also created the fertile ground for lumpen capital.

The whole state now awaits the CBI and the judiciary to fix the thugs with the charges of forgery and corruption. Till then, the people who have lost their life savings in Saradha Ponzi will keep on joining in protests and rallies organised by the Left. Slogans of rejection will keep on haunting the CM and her fraud agency called the Trinamool Congress until and after justice is delivered.