The multi-crore Saradha scam has emerged as a major election plank in the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal with major political parties like the Congress, BJP and CPI(M) training their guns against the ruling Trinamool Congress.
With the CPI(M) demanding a CBI probe into the scam that defrauded lakhs of small investors, the party's politburo member and former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee accused the Mamata Banerjee run government of becoming a 'symbol' of the Saradha Group which defrauded lakhs in the state.
"It is a scam of thousands of crores of rupees. Where has the money gone and to whom? Everything will come out. TMC talks about being truthful, but it is a government of lies," he alleged.
"Going by what I see every day in the media, this government can be seen as a symbol of Saradha and not of honesty ... the day is not far when it will fall," he said.
The BJP also had no kind words. The state BJP unit president Rahul Sinha blamed the Trinamool Congress for the mushrooming of money laundering companies and joined the chorus with Congress and CPI(M) for a CBI probe.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been vociferously maintaining that the seed of the scourge was planted during the erstwhile Left Front regime which saw the proliferation of such companies raising money from people promising unrealistic returns.
The issue became more murkier of late with both Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee trading charges against each other with the former pitching for a CBI probe into the matter much to the dislike of the chief minister.
Rajya Sabha MP and Trinamool spokesperson Derek O'Brien said, "They had raised the same issue also before the panchayat, municipal and by-polls. What happened, Trinamool won. People of Bengal are smarter, they know what to do." With the sole central agency Enforcement Directorate probing the matter, state Finance minister Amit Mitra alleged that it was a political move to nail the TMC.
A professor of political science of a city college, Udayan Banerjee, however, said, "There is no doubt that the Saradha episode is a major issue in the state as hard-earned money of the people has been siphoned off by the scamsters and major opponents are flagging the issue at this moment." Banerjee said although Saradha was born in the state, its roots spread to neighbouring states.
However, the impact was the maximum here, he said.
"Now with parties like CPI(M), Congress and the BJP raising the issue this time, it will find few takers and possibly have no impact in the minds of voters. People will repose more faith in the Shyamal Sen Commission," he said.
Professor of economics at Jadavpur University Ajitabha Roy Chowdhury said, "It is not right to blame the political parties only. Yes, they are to blame for not being able to create employment opportunities in the state. So they found that this was easiest way to provide jobs." He said that regulators like the SEBI and RBI and other law enforcing agencies should have been more proactive in dealing with the menace.
"Law enforcement agencies buckled under political pressure and failed to act on time," he said.
"These are not chit fund companies which are duly regulated. But these firms raised monies in various forms by violating norms and regulations just under the nose of political party satraps and others," he said.