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Taint worry in Trinamul

Dec. 1: Trinamul leaders today said the arrest of the Malda district magistrate in the SJDA funds misuse case could spell trouble for the party as several leaders had been interrogated and might be linked to the scam.

Rudranath Bhattacharya, the MLA of Siliguri, Ranjan Silsharma, a councillor in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, and Chandan Bhowmik, the party’s Jalpaiguri district president, were questioned by Siliguri police as part of the probe in August.

When his comments were sought in the case, Bhattacharya today said: “I have no comments on the matter.” Silsharma and Bhowmik, when contacted, also refused to speak.

A section of Trinamul leaders admitted in private that if the involvement of party leaders in the SJDA scam was proved, it would further tarnish the party’s image when “MP Kunal Ghosh’s arrest has caused a lot of embarrassment for us”.

Bhattacharya was removed as chairman of the SJDA in March this year and north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb replaced him. But Bhattacharya continues to be on the 14-member SJDA board along with Silsharma and Bhowmik.

Malda DM G. Kiran Kumar, who was the SJDA chief executive officer and was removed in March, was granted bail today.

“With barely a few months to go before the next year’s Lok Sabha elections, the SJDA scam involving party leaders would give a fresh handle to the Opposition to haul up the party as well as the government,” a Trinamul leader said tonight.

The Trinamul leader said the Opposition had already launched a campaign, demanding a CBI probe into the Saradha default case after Kunal Ghosh dropped names of some party leaders.

Trinamul sources said chief minister Mamata Banerjee today spoke to Deb and party all-India general secretary Mukul Roy during the day on the SJDA case.

Deb said there was no denying that three party leaders had been interrogated in connection with the alleged scam. Around Rs 100 crore was allegedly misused in several projects before work could be started on them. “So, after the Malda DM’s arrest, we want to ensure that none of our party leaders is implicated in this murky matter any longer. But at the same time, we are determined to expose those involved in the scam,” he said.

Sabitri Mitra, the minister for women and child development who is an MLA from Malda, did not hide her resentment over Kumar’s arrest. “Why was the Malda DM arrested? This should not have been done,” she said.

Youth Congress and DYFI supporters brought out processions demanding the arrest of those involved in the SJDA scam.

The Congress and the CPM today said that they would separately hit the streets in Siliguri tomorrow to step up the heat on the government.