Monday, December 21, 2015

Politics over Saradha : Didigiri

During her visit to Delhi in December 2015, Mamata Banerjee admitted that absence of enthusiasm from AIADMK chief Jayalalitha and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of Biju Janata Dal has virtually pricked Didi’s search for friends in national politics. “The federal front remains our goal…,” she said unhesitatingly adding these two leaders were not very keen. 

Mamata has been trying hard for a conglomeration of regional parties and in August 2015 held preliminary parleys with regional stalwarts like Sharad Pawar, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Farooq Abdullah. 
Search for greener grass!!
Now Mamata Didi has inched towards Congress also. But her politics in national canvas over Saradha is nothing new. In 2012 when she announced pulling out of the UPA, many Bengal watchers knew the FDI retail issue was just an excuse.
Mamata was getting annoyed with Manmohan Singh government as various central government agencies like ED were getting pro-active on Saradha. Her detractors like the Marxists allege that Mamata feared involvement of her “trusted men and women” in the scam and thus had opposed CBI probe. 

She had preferred only a SIT probe but Supreme Court had ruled otherwise and allowed CBI investigation. “The SIT Mamata government had insisted was only interested in hoodwinking the people. Their probe was a total farce,” said CPI-M leader Sujan Chakraborty. Similar to Sonia-Rahul’s ‘National Herald’ controversies – Saradha’s too is a rags to riches story in speed. 

Probe by SIT and CBI revealed that Saradha's annual collections went up from Rs 15 million at inception to Rs 10.08 billion in 2011-12 and Rs 8.5 billion in 2012-13. While Mamata claims Saradha came into being in 2006, it is also true by 2011-12, the state government also issued circulars to only keep newspapers owned by the chit fund group in all government libraries.
Dynasty and Law
It was around this time that the Saradha group spent millions sponsoring cycles, motorcycles, ambulances etc that Mamata Banerjee distributed to people in Naxal-hit Jangalmahal and other backward areas of Bengal. 

Didi’s anguish:
But not withstanding the ‘surprise’ element in Trinamool support to Congress both in Parliament and outside, was it was a pure simple camaraderie of the opposition camp as Sudip Bandyopadhayay, TMC floor leader in Lok Sabha, did his best to camouflage. “No one from Congress spoke to us in Lok Sabha on The National Herald. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her chief whip Jyotiraditya Scindia spoke to me and sought support in their protest as Congress members were not allowed to raise Dalit issue earlier,” Bandyopadhyay told this writer.

But the cat was out of the bag when the same evening, Mamata said she felt “sad” a senior Congress leader (Sonia) was being summoned for personal appearance in the court. Mamata almost forgot that in the process she was trying to redefine the basic issue of accountability of citizens towards the judicial authority.
In her enthusiasm to extend support to ‘madam Sonia’ – Mamata also forgot that Delhi High Court had rejected the plea hardly 24 hours before for exemption in appearance and had directed Sonia Gandhi and Rahul to appear before the city magistrate.

An embattled Congress perhaps had their reasons to cry in and around Parliament but Mamata Didi’s outburst was surprising even for the BJP camp in Lok Sabha. Essentially Congress was left ‘isolated’ when protesting over the court case and die-hard Congress supporters – the JD(U) also stayed away.

But the devil is elsewhere! Journalists in the new Banga Bhavan at Chanakyapuri – attending the high tea party hosted by Mamata – on December 8 - did not miss the point that probably the West Bengal Chief Minister looked “tensed”. She did not spot the characteristic smile, several scribes said later. However,  mercurial Mamata sought to play safe when she did not like to term the court orders “vendetta” and added: "I know the court has its power and freedom to issue such orders....but I also have freedom to express my opinion".

In fact, a senior Trinamool MP approached by a few journalists quickly responded saying, “it will be erroneous to link our camaraderie in opposition camp with Saradha chit fund scam”. 

Then was the reason political?
Is Didi apprehensive of Congress-Left tie up for ensuing Bengal polls?

The BJP has its organizational weaknesses in West Bengal but the determination of the party workers and encouraging response from upper castes and middle class of social stratification towards it has led state unit of saffron party to pledge for a “Trinamool mukt (free) Bengal”. It’s certainly ambitious target. In fact at a rally on December 1, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, administered an oath to the crowd who pledged "not to rest in peace till BJP came to power in Bengal".
Another BJP leader Sidharth Nath Singh’s repeat appeal at the rally "Bhag Mamata Bhag" - that triggered a controversy last year – again seemed to have gone down well with the people.

It goes without saying for BJP – that is making a mark among educated and middle class – corruption of Mamata regime and Saradha chit fund scam will figure prominently as a major electoral plank. This irks Didi. 

And in quite helpless manner – the Saradha chit fund scam probe – leaves Mamata annoyed and takes away her composure. Even in 2014 she was furious more than once against Narendra Modi. Undoubtedly BJP will again take up the Saradha chit fund issue with all it’s mite – a case that has already forced one of her trusted aides Mukul Roy to quit TMC.

“With three Trinamool MPs and a former West Bengal minister (Madan Mitra) in jail, it makes political sense now for TMC to join forces with the Congress. What would have been topmost in Trinamool strategists’ minds, however, is the assembly elections,” said a report in The Indian Express. Among others former MP and editor Kunal Ghosh, believed to have spoken a lot on Saradha, is still cooling his heels behind bars. In February 2015, another MP Srinjoy Bose was arrested. A day after getting bail Bose quit Mamata party and also resigned his seat.

Moreover, after an ED notice popular actor Mithun Chakborty, also Mamata’s MP in upper House, is now likely to tender resign. The speculation remains on  whether he will spill the beans before ED and other central agencies. Mamata is again nervous.
On November 26, while addressing a rally in Kolkata, Mamata had expressed apprehensions that the powers in Delhi might unleash CBI or ED against her for her comments against intolerance and threat to communal harmony. “Many have been threatened to give a false statement. They have threatened our MP Mithun Chakraborty in such a way that he can’t even talk to me,” she had claimed.
No Fire-No Smoke??

In the ultimate analysis, Saradha chit fund scam shows that greed of easy money has dangerous ramifications for common people. One former DGP, Rajat Mazumdar, who post retirement had joined Trinamool was also arrested. Saradha chairman Sudipto Sen had allegedly used police vehicles and motor cycles to commute his “people” and “messengers”. This only confirms that the higher ups were involved.  

It only highlights the conundrum that major corruption and financial defalcation can be carried out with the active involvement of top political masters and those in power like the senior cops.

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