Calcutta, May 9: Mamata Banerjee put up a brave face saying the court order for a CBI Saradha probe would not hurt her party and government, but her unconvinced ranks appeared nervous.
“We welcome the Supreme Court verdict. I’m saved and my government is saved,” she said in apparent sarcasm, implying she was now rid of the onus to refund the depositors.
But the few among her party colleagues willing to talk feared the CBI probe could prove an “Achilles heel” for Trinamul, till now spared any major political fallout from the scam.
Their key worries seemed to be the possibility of the CBI probe casting its net on party politicians and of the arrested accused “squealing”.
“If Kunal Ghosh (suspended party MP), who was virtually the Saradha No. 2 and knew all its affairs, starts singing, big names could be in trouble,” a leader said. “Remember, Kunal has been demanding a CBI probe since his arrest in September.”
Recently, outside the court, Kunal had seemed eager to talk to the media but was cut short by police.
Also, theatre personality Arpita Ghosh, now Trinamul candidate from Balurghat, was recently interrogated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which put the scandal back in the spotlight by arresting Saradha chief Sudipta Sen’s wife and son last month.
ED sources had told The Telegraph they had leads on one politician trying to bail Sen out last year, another arranging shelter for his immediate family, and a third seeking a lawyer’s help to draft a letter sent to the CBI on Sen’s behalf last year. The letter had tried to deflect suspicion from the Trinamul leadership to other parties.
ED sources had alleged lack of help from Bengal police but a CBI armed with an apex court directive for cooperation by state agencies is a different proposition.
“We didn’t suffer in last May’s panchayat polls, held weeks after the scandal broke, but the situation has changed. Our opposition to the CBI probe may have given out the impression that we have something to hide,” a party leader said.
Mamata told a Murshidabad rally the timing of the court order — 17 seats in Trinamul’s south Bengal bastion vote on May 12 — didn’t “bother” her.
Possibly driven by pique, she added: “Let them (the Opposition) refund the rest (of the duped depositors). CPM, BJP, Congress — you screamed canards. I’ll send the victims to your homes. If they don’t get their money, you’ll be paraded with ropes around your waist.”
A senior CBI officer unconnected with the case said the agency probe had nothing to do with refunds.