Nothing new about Sharada: Big scams always flourish with Neta-police blessings

Nothing new about Sharada: Big scams always flourish with Neta-police blessings

Agency News

New Delhi, Feb 4 : The heightened chit fund row sparked off in West Bengal somehow only highlights the conundrum that can major financial defalcation be carried out without the active involvement of top political masters and the senior cops.

Rajeev Kumar, Kolkata's police commissioner and blue eyed cop of Mamata Banerjee, is not the only man in Khaki who got embroiled in the muddle of Sharada chit fund scam.

In September 2014, former Assam DGP Shankar Barua shot himself to death about three weeks after the CBI raided his residence in connection with the multi-crore Sharadha chit fund scam.

Mercurial West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's now full blown war with the BJP on the CBI-chit fund row that surfaced on Sunday is not at all a sudden development as over the last few years, the confrontation was only brewing between two sides.

In another realm, the hands of friendship extended by Congress president Rahul Gandhi to the embattled Ms Banerjee within hours she sat on Dharna is also not surprising as when it came to Congress-Trinamool cooperation against the Modi government and on corruption issue, both the parties have cooperated quite actively in the past as well.

During her visit to Delhi in December 2015, Mamata Banerjee had backed Sonia Gandhi, then Congress president, as she was summoned by a Delhi court on 'The National Herald' case.

But Bengal watchers know pretty well that Mamata's original Sharada chit fund battle was 'imposed' on her only during UPA regime.

According to Leftist leaders, in 2012 when she announced pulling out of the UPA, the FDI retail issue was just an excuse.

In effect Mamata Banerjee's party was getting 'annoyed' with the Manmohan Singh government as various central government agencies like ED were getting pro-active on Sharada. Her detractors like Mohammad Salim of CPI-M and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of Congress have alleged that Ms Banerjee feared involvement of her “trusted men and women” in the scam and thus had opposed CBI probe.

She had preferred only a SIT probe and it was ironically headed by Rajeev Kumar - "world's best cop" according to her.

But a petition from Congress leader Abdul Mannah had later led the Supreme Court to give its nod for CBI investigation.

“The SIT set up by Mamata government was only interested in hoodwinking the people. Their probe was a total farce,” CPI-M leader Sujan Chakraborty has said in 2015 itself.

Not so ironically, similar to Sonia-Rahul’s ‘National Herald’ controversies – sources said Saradha chit fund’s too is a 'rags to riches' story in speed and style.

Probe by SIT and CBI had revealed that Sharada's annual collections went up from Rs 150 lakh at inception to Rs 100.80 lakh in 2011-12 and Rs 85 lakh in 2012-13. While Mamata Banerjee also claimed that Sharada chit fund actually had began in 2006 - under the Marxists' rule; it is also true that by 2011-12, the Mamata Banerjee government also issued circulars that all government libraries to strictly subscribe newspapers owned by the chit fund group.

Initially, the Left and Congress leaders in Bengal had alleged that it was around this time that the Sharada group spent millions of rupees sponsoring cycles, motorcycles, ambulances etc that Mamata Banerjee used to 'distribute' to people in Naxal-hit Jangalmahal and other backward areas of Bengal.

"Mamata Banerjee's politics always banked on playing Santa Claus as she distributed gifts and kept several sections of people including a section of media persons in good humour. A journalist-turned-Trinamool MP Kunal Ghosh later got himself embroiled in the case," a source said.

For her part - by December 2015, Ms Banerjee had realised that perhaps things would not turn very comfortable for her.

At times even during her Delhi visit, she avoided meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and at media conferences often lost cool if asked "whether Bengal CM would meet India's PM".

During one such visit on December 8, 2015, journalists in the new Banga Bhavan at Chanakyapuri in Delhi – attending the high tea party hosted by Mamata Banerjee did not miss the point that probably the West Bengal Chief Minister looked “tensed”.

She did not carry the characteristic smile, several scribes said later.

The 2016 assembly elections were fast approaching and she wanted to ensure that there is no Congress-Left tie up in the polls. The BJP was significantly only a marginal player in the state till then.

In fact, a former Union Minister and Trinamool MP Sisir Adhikari when approached by a few journalists quickly responded saying, “it will be erroneous to link our camaraderie in opposition camp and with Congress with the Sharadha chit fund scam”.

He suggested the the reason was 'political' as Mamata Banerjee could smell that with PM Modi's popularity, the BJP was working with renewed determination to expand its base in Bengal and often 'won over' Trinamool cadres and hints were being dropped about the likes of Mukul Roy also.

"The BJP had its organizational weaknesses in West Bengal but the determination of the party workers and encouraging response from upper castes and middle class had led the saffron party to pledge for a “Trinamool mukt (free) Bengal," a BJP Union Minister later said.

In fact at a rally on December 1, 2015, 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, now an UP Minister, had made repeated appeal at a rally "Bhag Mamata Bhag" - that triggered angry protest from Mamata Banerjee herself but had seemed to have gone down well with a section of people and BJP cadres in the state.

By 2015, at least three Trinamool MPs and a former West Bengal minister Madan Mitra were in jail.

Thus, it certainly made political sense for the Trinamool to be 'careful about' BJP and join forces with the Congress.

Among others former MP and editor Kunal Ghosh was believed to have spoken a lot on Sharada to the CBI.In February 2015, another MP Srinjoy Bose too was arrested. A day after getting bail Bose quit Mamata party and also resigned his seat.

Gradually, pressure mounted on noted Bollywood actor-turned-Trinamool MP Mithun Chakraborty, who also was forced to quit the party and the Rajya Sabha berth in 2017. No less than Trinamool floor leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay was also arrested but later released.

In the ultimate analysis, the Sharadha and Rose Valley chit fund scams show that greed of easy money has dangerous ramifications for people at various levels.

It was not without good reason that one former West Bengal DGP, Rajat Mazumdar, who post retirement had joined Trinamool was also arrested.

It is said the Sharadha group chairman Sudipto Sen had allegedly used police vehicles and motor cycles to commute his “people” and “messengers”. This only confirms that nothing could have moved without the 'nod' of the higher ups.UNI