Kolkata, Jan 12 (IANS) The CBI Monday summoned former railways minister Mukul Roy – considered West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s right hand man and number two in the Trinamool Congress – for questioning in connection with the multi-crore-rupee Saradha chit fund scam.
The opposition termed the development a major “setback” for the ruling Trinamool, while West Bengal’s ruling party accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government of using the Central Bureau of Investigation as a “political tool”.
Political analysts claimed that “signs were ominous” for the Trinamool and the questioning of yet another of its leaders will dent the morale and may eventually lead to its disintegration.
Confirming that he has been called for questioning, Roy – presently in Delhi – said he would appear before the CBI once he returns to Kolkata.
“Question doesn’t arise about any summons but I have been informed by the CBI. I am here (in Delhi) for a day or two, and once I go back to Kolkata, I will definitely meet the CBI people,” Roy, a Rajya Sabha member, told reporters in Delhi asserting he was not involved in any illegal or immoral act.
Backing Roy – the key man in the party’s organisational structure and regarded as the architect of its electoral victories- the Trinamool has called the people to hit the streets against the move.
With four of its leaders including Rajya Sabha members Kunal Ghosh and Srinjoy Bose, and state Transport Minister Madan Mitra arrested in the scam, the party lashed out at the BJP-led centre for its “political vendetta”.
“The nasty ploy of using the CBI as a political tool by the BJP continues. They could not fight us politically in Bengal in the Lok Sabha elections. So now, these dirty tactics months before the corporation elections,” said the party’s Rajya Sabha chief whip Derek O’Brien.
“This is blatant vindictiveness. Is the CBI being run by (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi’s office or by Amit Shah at the BJP headquarters?” he asked.
Probing the scam that came to light in April last year, the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have also questioned many Trinamool MPs.
Describing the CBI as a “frontal office for the BJP”, Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee said the people will hit the streets against the “political vindictiveness of the BJP”.
“Party workers, supporters and common people will protest against the BJP’s misuse of the CBI in every block of the state,” he said.
Claiming that the Trinamool frontline leadership was involved in the scam, BJP national secretary S.N. Singh said Roy’s summoning was a major setback for the state’s ruling party.
“Roy was the last person whom Saradha chief Sudipta Sen had met before he fled to Kashmir. So his summoning by the CBI is a significant step,” Singh said.
Former state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said Roy’s summoning by the CBI “was imminent”.
Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member Sitaram Yechury demanded that properties of all those involved in the scandal should be confiscated and sold off and every person connected to the graft be called for questioning, irrespective of their positions including Banerjee.
“The matter must be investigated in its entirety and all those who are involved irrespective of their position must be quizzed and if found guilty, action must be taken against them.
“More importantly, the money that was swindled from the poor must be returned by confiscating and selling their properties, whatever position they may hold, including the chief minister,” Yechury said.
State human rights panel’s former chief Asok Kumar Ganguly said the public standing of the Trinamool has “nose-dived” after the arrest and summoning of its top leaders in the scam.
“Trinamool’s standing has nose-dived in the eyes of the people. They came to power after winning a democratic election. Now, whatever the people understand about the situation, will happen,” said the former apex court judge.
Observing that signs were ominous, political analyst Anil Kumar Jana said latest move by the CBI has compounded the miseries of the Trinamool.
“Roy is central to Trinamool’s scheme of things and binds the party together. The Saradha issue has already created a rift among its ranks and his summoning will only fuel that. In case Roy is arrested by the CBI, then Trinamool is headed for a definite doom,” Vidyasagar University professor Jana told IANS.
Echoing a similar view, political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty said it was extremely difficult for the state’s ruling party to come out of the crisis.
“Roy is a massive figure in the party and this will severely dent the morale and confidence of party workers and supporters. Already cornered over various issue, Trinamool is steadily heading towards an existential battle and it looks extremely difficult for it to make an escape,” Chakrabarty, a Rabindra Bharati University professor, told IANS.