THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 5 SEPTEMBER, 2014
CBI Knocks at Mamata’s Door
KOLKATA: The CBI is now virtually knocking at the door of the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee having taken several steps forward in its enquiry into what has come to be known as the Saradha scam.
The controversial deal between Indian Railways Catering and Tourism (IRCTC) and Saradha Tours and Travels was signed when Banerjee was the Union Railway Minister. The probe has become an election issue casting a distinct shadow over the forthcoming assembly bypolls on September 13. The opposition has raked up the issue with the Left, Congress and the BJP hitting the Trinamool Party on this issue with Banerjee now clearly in the CBI’s firing line.
West Bengal Congress president Adhir Chowdhury has even demanded that Mamata resign and face an inquiry. "The deal points to the direct involvement of the then railway minister. She should step down from the CM's post and face the inquiry. She may resume office only if she comes out clean," Adhir told reporters.
Tours were awarded to Saradha without tenders with the organisation donating ambulances and motorbikes to the TMC government in West Bengal that was denounced at the time by the opposition as a clear quid pro act. Banerjee blamed the Left, but over the last several months, the fig leaves have been stripped off by the enquiry with the CBI reportedly in the process of completing the probe.
A year down the line, leaders Kunal Ghosh is in custody, Srinjoy has been questioned by Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), and ministers Madan Mitra and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, and MPs Arpita Ghosh and Ahmad Hassan Imran are under CBI scanner. TMC leaders houses have been raided, and Mukherjee has been actually summoned by the CBI for questioning. Significantly, according to media reports, the Saradha group has acquired 171 acres of prime land in West Bengal.
CBI has also questioned East Bengal Club official Debabrata Sarkar alias Nitu. Sources have told the media about documents confirming many of the allegations.
The chief minister has stepped up the attack on the BJP at the centre, but raised some eyebrows when she followed this with an indirect offer to the Left to work together against communalism. CPM general secretary Prakash Karat had told The Citizen at the time that this was not even being considered, as clearly Banerjee was not serious. She has alienated all the political parties, and is currently very isolated in the state.
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