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Rivals raise Saradha pitch

Calcutta, April 17: The Opposition today united in criticising the Trinamul government over the arrest of Sudipta Sen’s wife and son by a central agency and the ruling party feared a “severe crisis”.

While the Trinamul is finding itself on a sticky wicket following the arrests less than 24 hours before the Lok Sabha polls began in Bengal, the CPM, Congress and the BJP accused the state government of dragging its feet on the Saradha default case because of the alleged “involvement of ruling party leaders”.

Trinamul sources said the party was worried about the possibility of the names of more leaders getting dragged into the controversy in the run-up to the Supreme Court’s verdict on whether to hand over the default probe to the CBI.

The sources said if senior leaders were summoned for interrogation, it would hurt the party badly in the election season. “This is a severe crisis for the party,” a minister said.

The Opposition today hit out at Trinamul for the state police’s failure to arrest Sen’s second wife and son by his first marriage.

CPM state secretariat member Rabin Deb said the arrests had “exposed the government’s reluctance to probe the case”.

“The arrests would not have happened without the intervention of the central agency (Enforcement Directorate). The state government was reluctant as the names of many senior ruling party leaders are involved. Sen’s wife and son had been living in Calcutta but the state police could not find them,” Deb said.

State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury echoed Deb, adding the arrests had “proved that only a CBI probe could unearth the truth”.

“The state administration has so far refused to co-operate with central agencies. The government has vehemently opposed the demand for a CBI probe into the Saradha case. There is no point in blaming the (state) police as they acted on their masters’ orders. The arrests strengthen the need for a CBI probe,” Chowdhury, who has testy ties with Mamata Banerjee, told The Telegraph.

State BJP president Rahul Sinha said the money of the Saradha depositors “would never be traced” if a CBI probe was not ordered.

Recently, CPM and Congress leaders shared a dais in Calcutta to express solidarity with duped investors and demand a CBI probe into the default case.

The Supreme Court has finished hearing a plea for a CBI probe into the case. On April 23, a day before the second phase of polling in Bengal, the apex court will hear a similar plea from Assam and Odisha.

Trinamul secretary-general and minister Partha Chatterjee refused comment today. “This is sub-judice,” he said.

The chief minister is now campaigning in north Bengal. Trinamul all-India general secretary Mukul Roy held fort at Trinamul Bhavan today, meeting scores of leaders from Calcutta and adjoining areas.

Mamata, who has often accused the Centre of using central agencies to nettle state governments run by those in the Opposition in Delhi, is yet to react to the arrests.

The Trinamul sources said the top leadership held a series of meetings today to “find a way out of the crisis”.