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CM smells poll plot

Mamata at the rally in Hooghly’s Arambagh on Tuesday. Picture by Maidul Islam Khan

April 22: Mamata Banerjee questioned the timing of the central Enforcement Directorate’s Saradha probe in the middle of the Lok Sabha elections on a day Sonia Gandhi accused her government of conniving with fraud deposit-mobilising companies.

“It’s over a year ago that the Saradha Group was declared a fraud. But it is only during election time that they are sending a team to carry out investigations. Why were they silent for so long? All these are in connivance with the Congress,” Mamata said at Joyrambati in Bankura.

Around the same time in North Dinajpur’s Islampur, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi spoke at a rally in support of Mamata’s bete noire and Raiganj Congress candidate Deepa Das Munshi.

At the election rally in Islampur, Sonia said the “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.”

It is not known if Mamata was informed about Sonia’s speech, but the chief minister told the Bankura gathering that the Centre was to blame for the default crisis and it should not point a finger at the Bengal government.

“The rules regarding chit fund operations have been formed by the Centre. It is as much the central government’s responsibility as it is the state government’s to see whether common people are being cheated,” Mamata said.

She then listed what her government had done after the default crisis broke last year.

“We have probed each case. We sent our state police to Kashmir to apprehend the owners of Saradha and bring them back. The charge sheets were also filed against them by our police,” she said.

“Not only that, we have arranged for partial refund of deposits for as many as 4 lakh people, and another 2 lakh depositors will get their money back from funds arranged by the state government. No other state has done this.”

At the Adhar Mitra High School grounds in Joyrambati, around 15,000 people had turned up to hear Mamata speak in support of Saumitra Khan, the Trinamul candidate in Bishnupur.

At her two other meetings in Hooghly’s Arambagh and Serampore, Saradha was on Mamata’s lips again.

In both places, she held up the yearly edition of Dial, the telephone directory brought out by CPM mouthpiece Ganashakti, to show flagged pages that contained advertisements by the Saradha Group.

“Who paid for all these advertisements? How much money was paid to them? We will break the Congress-CPM racket now. Day after day, month after month, year after year, advertisements have been carried in Ganashakti. Where did all this money come from?” she asked.

Trinamul, the chief minister said, “does not run on funds taken from people”.

“Not a single advertisement has come out in our publication Jago Bangla. The chit fund ads have tricked the common people into depositing their money with such companies. Those who have glorified chit funds will be punished,” she said.

Without naming Kunal Ghosh, Mamata said she got her own party MP arrested for his alleged involvement in the Saradha scandal.

“We have sent our own party MP to jail. I want to make it clear that the law will take its own course,” the Trinamul chief said.