Vol. XLIII No. 16 April 21, 2019
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Mock Battle between BJP and TMC

THE Supreme Court order directing the Kolkata police commissioner to present himself before the CBI for questioning at a neutral venue and, at the same time, directing the CBI not to take any coercive action like arrest against the police officer has exposed the political posturing by both sides – Mamata Banerjee and the TMC government on one side and the BJP and the Modi government on the other. 

While Mamata Banerjee sought to project herself and her government, through her dharna, as victims of the machinations of the BJP government at the centre, the BJP has been loudly asserting that the CBI’s attempt to enter the house of the police commissioner to arrest him was a major step in the investigation into the Saradha scam and other ponzi schemes.  Neither of these versions is true.

The Trinamool Congress leadership and a nexus of bureaucrats and retired police officials were fully involved and complicit in the Saradha and Rose Valley scams which resulted in lakhs of people losing their hard-earned money and savings.  For instance, the Saradha group of companies raised Rs 30,000 crores from 17 lakh depositors. When the business collapsed, lakhs of small depositors lost their savings.  Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the ruling TMC have been strenuously trying to cover-up their involvement in the scandal.  It is due to their lackadaisical approach to the investigation through the Special Investigation Team, headed by Rajeev Kumar, and the fact that the scam had spread across different states that the CPI(M) and some others approached the Supreme Court for a comprehensive investigation by the CBI. The Supreme Court ordered in March 2014 that all the cases connected with the chit fund companies be investigated by the CBI.

It is these investigations that led to the arrest of Kunal Ghosh and Srinjoy Bose, two Trinamool Congress MPs, Madan Mitra, a minister in the state government and Rajat Majumdar, a former director general of police.  Later, Sudip Bandopadhyay, the leader of the TMC group in the Lok Sabha, was arrested in connection with the Rose Valley case.

However, the CBI slowed down, or, halted the investigations as per the political requirements of the BJP.  The ruling party at the centre has sought to use the CBI investigation as a stick to beat the TMC into submission from time to time. It has also sought to co-opt some of those accused in the scandal into the BJP. 

Two prominent names involved were Mukul Roy of the TMC and Himanta Biswa Sarma of the Congress.  In the case of Mukul Roy, who was the general secretary of the TMC, he was questioned by the CBI regarding the Saradha scam. But after he joined the BJP in November 2017, the CBI stopped further proceedings against him. As far as Himanta Biswa Sarma is concerned, the CBI raided his house and questioned him in November 2014. But after his joining the BJP in August 2015, there were no further steps taken by the CBI against him.   

After keeping the investigations into the Saradha scam in abeyance for quite some time, suddenly the CBI decided to “visit” the Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar at his residence. If, as the CBI claims, the police commissioner had refused repeated summons, it could have gone to the High Court to get a judicial direction. Instead, the raid on his house was motivated by the BJP’s political interest in putting Mamata Banerjee in the dock at a time when the confrontation on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections is building up.

Mamata Banerjee, in turn, sought to utilise the incident to burnish her credentials as an anti-BJP fighter and defender of state’s rights.  Underlying this posture was her barely concealed intent to protect all those involved in the cover-up of the scam. 

The Saradha and other chit funds, in the process of swindling the people, had also played a key role in financing the Trinamool Congress and setting up electronic and print media to attack the Left Front government and propagate the TMC in the run-up to the 2011 assembly elections.  Thus, Mamata Banerjee was not only intent on covering up the loot of the people, but also protecting her political lineage which drew sustenance from such lumpen-financiers. 

Standing apart from this mock battle between the BJP and the TMC, it is important to bring the focus back on to the real issue: the struggle to book all those involved in the corrupt chit funds-politicians-bureaucrat nexus; the seizure of all the assets of the scamsters and to ensure that all the victims of the ponzi schemes are compensated. It would be better if the Supreme Court directly supervises the CBI investigations into the Saradha, Rose Valley and other chit funds scandals. 

(February 6, 2019)