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Opposition smells blood, lauds verdict

Calcutta, May 9: The Supreme Court’s order of a CBI probe into the Saradha default scam has come as a shot in the arm for the Opposition ahead of the elections to 17 Lok Sabha seats in the last phase on Monday.

The Opposition had been demanding an investigation by the central agency into the default case since Saradha went bust in April last year.

With only time till Saturday to campaign for the polls on Monday, the Left, Congress and the BJP rushed to organise media conferences where they welcomed the verdict and claimed moral victory.

Several Opposition leaders said that had the verdict come a few days earlier, the parties could have organised big rallies and made the CBI probe a poll plank. “Only one day is left for campaigning. It will not be possible to bring many people from the districts at such a short notice,” a CPM leader said.

The Opposition had failed to capitalise on the Saradha scam before last year’s panchayat polls as the Trinamul government had averted a fallout by setting up a probe team and a commission to compensate victims.

Left Front chairman Biman Bose said at a media conference at Alimuddin Street hours after the Supreme Court verdict today: “A CBI probe into the Saradha scam is our long-standing demand. Now the truth will come to light.”

Bose, also the CPM state secretary, demanded that those involved in the scam be sent to jail. “If the involvement of Left Front leaders or ministers is proved, they should also be punished,” he said.

Asked if the CBI probe would benefit the Left in the run-up to Monday’s polls, Bose parried the question, saying: “This is up to the electorate to take a call on the matter because many of them have become victims of the scam.”

Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra of the CPM said a CBI probe would pave the way for the Saradha victims getting back their money.

Congress spokesperson Abdul Mannan, who had moved the Supreme Court demanding a CBI probe into the Saradha default scandal, called for Mamata Banerjee’s resignation on moral grounds.

“The (special investigation team) probe ordered by the state government was a farce. The government tried to mislead the people in court. The chief minister, who is in charge of the home department, should resign on moral grounds,” he said.

Mannan said he had moved the apex court last year.

“Now, it is for the people to decide whether they would vote for those who have looted lakhs of innocent depositors,” he said.

Former Union minister Sashi Tharoor, who was on a day’s visit to Calcutta, told reporters at the state Congress headquarters Bidhan Bhavan that the Saradha scam “has raised certain questions”.

“It seems that the state government is inclined to cover up the matter and hence (a) CBI probe is a necessity,” he said.

Bengal BJP president Rahul Sinha said the CBI should find out where the money raised by the Saradha Group had gone.

“We were confident that a CBI probe would take place in the Saradha scam,” he said, adding that the BJP would draw attention to the issue in the last leg of campaigning.