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SEEING RED

It is not just in the electoral season that politicians sniff “conspiracies” in the air. They cry foul whenever they suspect things to be going against them. To millions of victims of the Saradha scandal, an impartial inquiry into it is not only a welcome move but also is the first step towards recovering the missing funds and repaying them. The investors in the scheme, the majority of whom are ordinary people, would have felt reassured if Mamata Banerjee had welcomed the Enforcement Directorate’s probe into the scandal. Nearly 90 per cent of the investors who have been defrauded belong to West Bengal. It should have been a major concern for the state government to ensure that the victims get justice. Instead, Ms Banerjee sees a “conspiracy” against her government — and her party — in the ED’s investigation. Her argument that the ED probe was unnecessary because the state government has been probing the scandal is clearly unconvincing. By all accounts, the inquiry conducted so far by the state police has been too slow and disjointed to offer hopes of an early breakthrough. More important, the probe by the state agencies may not quite clear the air about the alleged involvement of several leaders of the Trinamul Congress in the Saradha affair.

Ms Banerjee may have committed a major political blunder by persistently opposing the ED’s probe. She could have used it as an opportunity to clear her party’s — and government’s — name. As an Opposition leader, she had demanded inquiries by the Central Bureau of Investigation into many acts of omission and commission by the previous Left Front government. Her public pronouncements opposing the ED’s probe into the Saradha scam are thus bound to raise questions about her government’s intentions in this particular case. Her stand comes in stark contrast with the positions taken by the governments of Tripura, Assam and Odisha. The first two states have already welcomed a CBI probe into the affair and the third is believed to be reconsidering its earlier objections to it. That makes the Bengal government’s position look even less tenable. Ms Banerjee can follow Odisha’s example and revise her government’s ill-advised stand. Otherwise, the cheated depositors and other sections of the people may not be easily convinced that that she is really keen on having the fraud fully exposed and the guilty punished.