Calcutta, April 26: Acronym, thy name is acrimony.
The Armageddon of the alphabets took a cross-country leap from the heartland to Bengal today with the Congress and the Trinamul Congress hurling acronyms at each other on the Saradha scandal.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the visiting Congress spokesperson from New Delhi, twisted the knife in the wound when he said “TMC” stood for “Trinamul Model Chit”.
Amit Mitra, the Bengal finance minister, not usually seen with an unsheathed bayonet in the trenches, referred to “the Congress Bureau of Investigation” and the “Indian National Corruption Party”.
The dictionary-driven duel coincides with another between Narendra Modi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Modi has been speaking of “ABCD” (Adarsh, Bofors, coal and damaad or Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra) and “RSVP” (Rahul, Sonia, Vadra, Priyanka) and Priyanka had yesterday ridiculed Modi’s approach.
Mitra, perhaps still settling down to such adrenaline-pumping assignments or perhaps betraying the frayed nerves in the party, referred to another scandal that had no direct bearing on cash collection or defaults.
“Ask him (Singhvi) why he had to resign from the parliamentary standing committee on law and justice on April 23, 2012? Why he had to resign as the spokesperson of the Congress…. I don’t make personal attacks. Please find out yourself,” Mitra told a hurriedly called media conference at Trinamul Bhavan.
Asked if he was referring to a “sex scandal”, Mitra said: “Find it out.”
The suave Mitra appeared to be hinting at the content of a CD, the circulation of which had prompted Singhvi to withdraw from Congress platforms. The Congress later brought him back to represent the party on TV channels.
This is the second time in less than a week that Mitra has been deployed to launch uncharacteristic attacks on political rivals.
Mamata, after a pause during which attention was devoted to development issues, too, returned to the Saradha theme today, reflecting what is being viewed as disquiet within Trinamul over a scandal that has sprung back to life in the middle of the Lok Sabha elections.
Last Sunday, the Bengal finance minister had called a media conference to ask why the Enforcement Directorate, whose arrest of Saradha boss Sudipta Sen’s wife and son under the nose of Bengal police had embarrassed the state government, was not acting against the wife of Union finance minister P. Chidambaram. Mitra had also referred to telecom allegations against Chidambaram’s son.
Today, in the course of a media conference in New Delhi, it was Chidambaram’s turn to wonder aloud why Mamata was concerned about those charged with wrongdoing instead of the victims of Saradha.
Chidambaram said that it had been clarified eight months ago that his wife had appeared as a legal professional and was advising another woman, who had contemplated business transaction. He said his wife received her remuneration through a cheque.
He also rejected Mamata’s allegations that the Enforcement Directorate was acting at his behest. “I do not monitor or give directions in individual cases,” he said, adding that if the ED had taken any action, it had done so on its own.
In Calcutta, Singhvi, who held a news conference along with PCC president Adhir Chowdhury this afternoon, said: “You must have heard the acronym for Saradha Chit Fund, which is SCF? You must also be aware of TMC, which means Trinamul Model Chit.… The responsibility of TMC is to protect SCF.”
The thrust of his speech confirmed that Saradha had become a must-visit issue for all political guests in Bengal — a trend started by Narendra Modi in Siliguri and picked up by Rahul and Sonia Gandhi subsequently.
“Wherever you find a scam, there is a Trinamul leader in it. What is the use of talking about simplicity and cleanliness when you don’t have moral and political courage to act against your party people who have defrauded people?” Singhvi asked.
With Mamata coming under attack indirectly, Trinamul’s media handling team swung into action. State finance minister Mitra, along with Trinamul Rajya Sabha chief whip Derek O’Brien, paid Singhvi back in the acronym coin.
“He (Singhvi) must have had the Congress Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in mind…. Their party is called the Indian National Congress, but actually it is the Indian National Corruption Party,” Mitra said.
The Bengal finance minister did not reply to a question whether Trinamul had the same perception about the central agency during its days in the Opposition when Mamata used to demand CBI probes into big incidents in the state.
Later in the evening, Trinamul said in a media release that the Congress’s demand for a CBI probe into the Saradha scandal “is rich, coming from a party that is shedding crocodile tears over corruption on the eve of voting”.