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Sonia thrusts S-word, Mamata parries
Congress chief blames state govt

Sonia Gandhi speaks at the Murshidabad rally on Tuesday. Picture by Chayan Majumdar

April 22: Congress president Sonia Gandhi today accused the Bengal government of being “in connivance” with sham deposit mobilising companies, echoing the line taken by son Rahul in Murshidabad three days ago.

“A poor man saves every penny to secure the future of his family and children. But chit fund companies in connivance with the state government looted and ruined them,” Sonia told an election rally in Islampur’s Panjipara, which is part of Deepa Das Munshi’s Lok Sabha constituency Raiganj.

Sonia’s accusation was music to the ears of the Bengal Congress, which had wanted the high command to step up the heat on the Trinamul-led state government over the Saradha scandal, sources said.

The Congress chief’s allegation comes a day before the Supreme Court is likely to pronounce its verdict on the demand for a CBI probe into the Saradha scandal.

In Behrampore on April 19, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had accused the Bengal government of not doing much to probe the Saradha scandal.

“The scam should be probed by the CBI, the state government is not doing anything. Because they know that the day the probe is started, their own people will be exposed,” Rahul had said.

Sonia today said that “the law and order situation is such that the state government cannot take action against these companies”. This is the first time the Congress president has used such harsh words against the Bengal government.

The Saradha default became an election issue after Narendra Modi raked it up at a rally in Siliguri on April 10. Since then, Rahul and former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee have piled the heat on the Mamata Banerjee government on this.

On the last day of campaigning for the April 24 elections involving six constituencies, Sonia addressed another rally — at Jangipur in Murshidabad, where President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijeet is the Congress candidate.

At Jangipur, Sonia said people were aware of what was happening in Bengal for the past three years.

“When it comes to disbursing funds for development, the Congress has never discriminated against any state government. This was true for Bengal when the Left was in power and it stands true even now,” she said.

“People know what is going on here for the past three years and what happened in the 34 years before that…. I don’t want to raise this here…. Aap ne sab dekha aur suna hai (You have seen and heard everything),” she added.

The constituencies that vote on April 24 are Raiganj, Balurghat, Malda North, Malda South, Jangipur and Murshidabad. Except for Balurghat, the others are held by the Congress. Balurghat is with the RSP.

The Lok Sabha polls will be a test for the Congress to retain its five seats in a four-cornered fight.

A state Congress leader said: “Soniaji said what we have been saying all along…. The Trinamul government did nothing to stop these companies.”

Earlier in Islampur, Sonia also blamed the Mamata government for coming in the way of a proposed AIIMS-like hospital at Raiganj, a pet project of ailing former Congress MP Priya Ranjan Das Munshi.

“Like the Left Front government, the new government has done nothing to hand over land for the project which would have benefited the people of this region,” Sonia said.