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CM dares Centre to arrest her

- Mamata’s scam reply to Rahul’s Saradha jab
Mamata speaks at the rally in Malda, Biman at the news conference in Calcutta. Pictures by Surajit Roy and Bibhash Lodh

April 19: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today dared the Centre to arrest her, hours after Rahul Gandhi accused the Bengal government of “shielding” those involved in the Saradha scandal.

Amake jail-e pathak, dekhe nebo (Let them send me to jail, I will see),” Mamata said at a Trinamul campaign meeting in Malda’s Englishbazar.

Mamata, who described the UPA government in Delhi as “outgoing”, referred to the controversies that have dogged the Centre in the past few years. “In these years, there were scams one after the other — coal, 2G, defence…. Fuel prices also shot up. They have looted the country and there was no one to say anything,” Mamata told the gathering of around 12,000 supporters.

At a meeting earlier in the day in neighbouring Murshidabad, Congress vice-president Rahul had said “Mamataji’s government is not taking any action” against those behind the Saradha scam, in which “around 20 lakh families have had to suffer and over Rs 18,000 crore was involved”.

Mamata today held two rallies, one in Raiganj in North Dinajpur and the other at Englishbazar. At both meetings, the chief minister accused the Congress, the CPM and a section of the media of spreading “rumours” against Trinamul.

“Rumours are being spread that we (the Trinamul Congress) had taken money from chit fund companies. Since we did not take any money, there is nothing to be afraid of,” she said.

According to sources, the poll-eve arrest of Saradha chief Sudipta Sen’s wife and son by the Enforcement Directorate is being seen as a fresh crisis, both for the Bengal government and Trinamul.

The default scam had mostly hit depositors across rural Bengal, seen as the main vote bank of Trinamul, and the coming of central agencies like the ED into the picture could adversely hit the party’s image, the sources added.

Like Rahul today, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, had attacked the Mamata government over the Saradha scandal during a recent election meeting in Siliguri.

Mamata, in an attempt to distance herself and her party from the scam, reminded the gathering in Malda about the steps her government had taken after the scandal broke. She also referred to the arrest of the party’s suspended Rajya Sabha MP, Kunal Ghosh, to assure the people that her government stood firmly behind the duped investors.

Mamata also blamed the previous Left Front government and the Congress for the mushrooming of sham deposit-mobilising companies in Bengal.

“These companies were set up 20 to 30 years ago when the CPM was in power. What was the Centre doing? What were RBI and Sebi doing? Chorer maayer boro gola (A thief’s mother shouts the loudest),” she said in Englishbazar.

She then hit out at a section of the media for accepting advertisements from such companies.

Later in the evening, CPM state secretary Biman Bose criticised Mamata for alleging that the Left party had benefited from Saradha. “If that be so, let the chief minister order a CBI inquiry. Why is she hesitating to do that? If a CBI probe reveals that some CPM cadres were involved, let the law take its own course. People are realising what sort of ridiculous comments she is making,” Bose said in Calcutta.

He added: “I don’t know for sure the extent of the impact the Saradha scandal would have on the Lok Sabha elections but it will definitely have some impact.”