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Saradha scandal returns to limelight in Bengal poll season (Election Special)

Posted on Apr 22 2014 | IANS

Kolkata, April 22 : The Saradha chit fund scam - West Bengal's biggest financial scandal - is yet again grabbing the spotlight in the midst of the Lok Sabha polls, as the ruling Trinamool Congress faces the heat over the issue from its political opponents.

While the Congress and the CPI-M led Left front have been clamouring for a CBI probe into the multicrore rupee scam for months, the Enforcement Directorate's recent arrests of the wife and son of scam kingpin Sudipto Sen, has provided the much needed trigger to the opposition who have come out against the Mamata Banerjee government with all guns blazing.

With the Lok Sabha poll jamboree peaking in the state, prominent leaders like Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi, as also BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi, have all raked up the issue to corner the state's ruling party, one of whose MPs is behind bars for his alleged complicity in the scandal.

If Rahul Gandhi during his campaign in the state accused the Banerjee government of "shielding the scamsters", Sonia Gandhi went a step ahead to say the government was hand-in-glove with the looters.

"We all know how every person has to struggle to save money for his children's future and for emergencies. But with the connivance of the state government, chit fund companies here have looted and ruined more than 18 lakh families," Sonia Gandhi said Tuesday at a party rally in Islampur in North Dinajpur district.

The BJP, which has been constantly harping on the issue ever since it came to light last April, has sharpened its attack after the ED summoned Trinamool candidate and theatre personality Arpita Ghosh.

Meanwhile, seemingly rattled by the renewed attack, the Trinamool has now trained its guns on union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, accusing him of inciting the ED to arrest its party leaders.

Led by party supremo Banerjee, several key leaders of the Trinamool have been questioning the motive behind the ED stepping up the probe.

The party has also been demanding the arrest of the wife of a union minister, who was named by Sudipto Sen in his tell-all letter to the CBI before his eventual arrest.

The Trinamool has now initiated a vitriolic attack against the Congress with one of its leaders saying: "I challenge the ED to declare how many crores of Saradha money was taken by the son and daughter of the former Congress leader who now adorns the highest office of the land".

The leader, a state minister, however has denied making the comments, a day after his comments were aired by the local news channels.

The Congress too has hit back, with state unit president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury quipping: "The Trinamool realises that half of its leaders will end up in jail once the ED probe completes. Naturally, they are rattled and attacking us."

Political analyst A.K. Jana feels Saradha was always a contentious issue for the Trinamool with reports of alleged involvement of some of its leaders. The ED probe is sure to provide arsenal to the Congress, which has been losing ground in the state.

"The ED has already summoned Ghosh while there are unconfirmed reports that several other Trinamool leaders are likely to be questioned, so no political party will let go the opportunity to harp on the issue.

"Moreover, the ED is directly under the finance ministry, so the probe might give ammunition to the Congress," said Jana of Vidyasagar University.

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