Mamata Banerjee has created this false “political vendetta by the BJP” narrative, hoping that people could be hood-winked into believing that her party leaders were being arrested not because of their involvement in chit fund scam, but because she had been the most vociferous opponent of demonetisation.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was stunned by the arrest of her senior party leader and Lok Sabha MP Sudip Bandopadhyay, accused the BJP-led NDA government at the Center of acting out of vengeance and using the CBI to silence her. She alleged that her party and its senior leaders are being targeted by the ruling BJP because she has been vehemently opposing Narendra Modi’s demonetisation move.
For quite some time now, Mamata Banerjee has been building a false narrative around this. She has been saying that the BJP will target her and her party men for her opposition. In fact, even in the past when the CBI arrested her former state transport minister Madan Mitra, or party MPs Srinjoy Bose and Kunal Ghosh, she had cried “vendetta politics”. After Lok Sabha MP Tapas Pal was arrested on New Year ’s Eve, she had alleged that it was an act of vengeance. After Bandopadhyay’s arrest on Tuesday, she has gone ballistic with conspiracy theories.
Mamata’s allegations are not based on facts and she is, in fact, being too clever by half. Mamata, as was said in this article published five days before Pal’s arrest, knew that the noose was tightening around her neck. She had got to know that the CBI investigations into the chit fund scams (Saradha and Rose Valley being the most prominent ones) were reaching a critical stage and her party colleagues would be arrested. She also knew that investigations by central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Income Tax and Economic Offences Wing had turned up a lot of evidence of corruption against senior leaders of her party and even her nephew, Lok Sabha MP Abhishek Banerjee, as well as her brothers who had faced grave accusations of amassing wealth in the past.
Apprehending a crackdown on her party colleagues and family members, Mamata launched what she thought would be a counter-offensive based on falsehoods and lies. Thus, Mamata created this false “political vendetta by the BJP” narrative, hoping that people could be hood-winked into believing that her party leaders were being arrested not because of their involvement in the chit fund scam, but because she had been the most vociferous opponent of demonetisation.
To put things in perspective, it needs to be remembered that it is not the Narendra Modi government at the Center, but the Supreme Court, which has ordered a CBI probe into the chit funds scam where an estimated 15 lakh people, mostly the poor and the lower middle classes in Bengal, Assam and Odisha, were swindled out of their life’s savings amounting to over Rs 20,000 crore by ponzi firm operators. Many of Mamata’s closest aides helped the chit fund companies like Saradha and Rose Valley prosper in return for hefty financial returns. They served on the boards of these companies, appeared in public functions organised by these companies, openly endorsed these companies’ activities and even appeared on advertisements put out by these companies. Trinamool leaders addressed agents’ and investors’ meets organised by these companies. In return, they received fat salaries, honorariums and lavish gifts in cash and kind. Thus, they were guilty of promoting these chit fund companies and benefitting from these fraud companies.
Take Sudip Bandopadhyay’s case. He was arrested by the CBI after he failed to answer three questions:
(1) Why he had attended a delegates’ (investors) meet of Rose Valley when he should have been aware (as a member of parliament’s standing committee on finance) of the fact that Rose Valley was operating illegally as a ponzi firm?
(2) Who gifted him the expensive sedan that he used for many years (it is believed that Rose Valley did)?
(3) Who financed his trips to some of the some foreign countries he visited?
The CBI is said to have evidence that it was Rose Valley chief Gautam Kundu who financed Bandopadhyay’s pleasure trips to the USA, a Middle Eastern and a Southeast Asian country. Also, the CBI suspects that Bandopadhyay and some other Trinamool leaders helped Kundu park a substantial sum of money taken from poor depositors in the three states in a Southeast Asian country.
It must also be said that investigations take time. Collecting a body of evidence against promoters of chit fund companies as well as those who helped them prosper involves meticulous and time-consuming investigation. Over the past nearly three years since it took over the investigations into the chit fund scam, the CBI has been on the job. The investigations are reaching a final stage now with the guilty being arrested, interrogated and being confronted with proof of their wrongdoings before chargesheets are drawn up against them.
Mamata had got to know about this, and so she started hyperventilating about a political vendetta against her. She let it out on Tuesday (after Sudip Bandopadhyay’s arrest) that her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee and state urban development minister Firhad Hakim could also be arrested. That’s because she knows the CBI and other central investigating agencies have collected a lot of evidence against her nephew for his involvement in many corrupt deals and amassing huge properties. Chatterjee and Hakim are believed to have many benami properties and could be ensnared by the tough laws against benami properties that Prime Minister Modi will soon enact. Her brothers are also likely to be found guilty for involvement in corrupt deals and her ministers for showering undue favours in terms of government contracts etc on Mamata’s brothers.
Mamata is mistaken in her belief that crying wolf will save her party men and family members from the long arm of the law. They have committed grave wrongs, and benefitted at the expense of the poor. They have to pay for their wrongs. Mamata knows that once the law catches up with her close aides and family members, she cannot escape unscathed. She knows many of them will spill the beans and tell the investigating agencies how all the corruption and wrongdoing went on under her watch and how she had full knowledge of all the murky deals.
Some of the arrested will definitely turn approvers to save their skins and reveal how money from Saradha, Rose Valley and other chit fund companies went into the Trinamool’s coffers and how that money was used to fight elections. Mamata could not have not known about all that. Mamata knows very well that once all that evidence surfaces, her political career will be over. She has a deep fear of that. And, hence, she is now trying to deflect attention from the wrongdoings of her party men by alleging that the BJP is punishing them for her anti-demonetisation stance.
Her tactics will not succeed. For, as the saying goes, she can fool some people (i.e. the people of Bengal) all the time, all people for some time, but not all the people for all the time.