(From left) The Congress’s Somen Mitra, the SFI’s Ritabrata Banerjee and the CPM’s Surjya Kanta Mishra at the dharna dais on Friday. Picture by Bibhash Lodh
Calcutta, Feb. 14: The Congress and the Left Front today joined hands to criticise the Trinamul government for the Saradha default crisis, the move before the Lok Sabha elections coming after the Opposition lost the first round to the administration.
Left and Congress leaders shared the dais at a dharna organised by two fledgling apolitical outfits — the Chit Fund Sufferers’ Unity Forum and the All-India Small Depositors’ and Field Workers’ Protection Committee — near Metro Channel.
As the CPM’s Surjya Kanta Mishra and the Congress’s Somen Mitra and Pradip Bhattacharya arrived at the venue, it gave the impression that the two parties had come together to launch a fresh attack on the government.
“Both the Congress and the Left have realised that they have to unite to attack the government,” a Congress leader said.
Earlier attempts to cash in on the Saradha default crisis did not yield results as Trinamul swept the panchayat polls last year despite the Opposition highlighting the alleged association of some leaders of the ruling party with illegal deposit-mobilising firms.
“The money has to be traced and returned to the depositors. There is no need to see party colours. The depositors must get back their dues,” Mishra told the 2,000-odd duped depositors and agents participating in the 24-hour dharna.
Mishra tried to de-link today’s protest meeting from any political agenda. Mitra alleged that the government had not taken steps to rein in the sham deposit firms.
But the co-ordination between the two parties was not lost on many, with sources saying it was part of a bigger plan to attack Mamata Banerjee and her government.
Mamata had tackled the crisis by setting up a commission to probe the scale of the Saradha default and identify those who would be compensated by the government.
After the special investigating team probing the default arrested Trinamul MP Kunal Ghosh, who was the head of the Saradha Group’s media business, the government had sent out the message that the probe would be fair.
In December 2012, when Left and Trinamul MLAs had come to blows in the Assembly over the Left’s efforts to bring an adjournment motion on the mushrooming of illegal deposit-mobilising companies, the Congress legislators had stayed away.
A source said the Left and the Congress would “be in the background” and “lend support” to the duped investors and agents.
Banners alleging that 15 sham deposit-mobilising companies were still operating in Bengal have been put up at the dharna site.
“My son had to flee home after failing to return Rs 40,000 to those who had invested in the schemes run by the company for which he had been working as an agent. I have come here with the hope that we will get back the money and return it,” said Nilima Roy, the mother of Uday Shankar, a private tutor who used to work for a deposit-mobilising company in Kasba.
Earlier in the day, the Left and the Congress lodged back-to-back protests in the Assembly against the chief minister’s absence from the House. The Left has announced that it will boycott Mamata’s address to the Assembly on Monday.