Saradha scam: uncharted & unpredictable terrain ahead

Saradha scam: uncharted & unpredictable terrain ahead

By: || Updated: 13 Dec 2014 05:43 AM
Calcutta: If the arrest of Madan Mitra was a chronicle foretold, what lies ahead is the great unknown.

 

So far, the plot has stuck faithfully - but for one change in the sequence - to the prophetic script Mamata had unwittingly authored in the summer of 2013 when she unveiled a rhetorical "list of thieves".

 

Kunal chor? Arrested.

 

Madan chor? Arrested.

 

Tumpai chor? Arrested.

 

Mukul chor?

 

Aami chor?

 

The strike rate so far is exceptional, even though Madan was arrested after Tumpai aka Srinjoy Bose, the Trinamul Rajya Sabha MP.

 

The question that cannot wait to escape almost every lip in Bengal - and many parts of the country - is which symbol will fill the imaginary boxes against the remaining two questions: tick or cross?

 

Veteran CBI officers not connected with the Saradha probe pointed out that every additional arrest meant more paperwork for a team with limited resources.

 

The investigators usually focus on fulfilling the immediate legal requirements - ensuring that a chargesheet is drawn up within 90 days of the arrest and leads thrown up during interrogation are pursued - before turning their attention to more suspects.

 

What Mitra's arrest has done is that it has heralded Mamata and Trinamul into uncharted waters.

 

Mamata conceded as much Friday. “Ei lorai banchar lorai (This is a battle for survival)," the chief minister said, referring to the fight with the BJP.

 

Never afraid of skirmish on the street and its consequences, Mamata uncharacteristically gave too much emphasis on "arrest".

 

Not once but twice in the day she dared the Prime Minister to arrest her - and proceeded to predict another round of hospitalisation for the illness-prone Madan, although he was lodged in a police station till late tonight. "I will go to SSKM hospital to meet Madan Mitra. I dare Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to arrest me," Mamata said at Nabanna, where she repeated the Trinamul charge that the arrest was politically motivated.

 

Ever since the Saradha scandal broke and once the Supreme Court handed over the probe to the CBI, it was more or less certain that MPs Kunal Ghosh and Bose would be under the glare of law enforcement.

 

Madan pushed matters to the edge of a farce by hospital-hopping and sent shivers down the Trinamul spine by speaking up from his purported sick bed.

 

Mamata, who had gradually distanced herself from Madan when the scandal broke, was forced to return to his side, prompting suggestions that the advantages of a monitored as well as tongue-tied liability outweigh the unpredictable costs of an uncontrolled and media-friendly dumped ally.

 

At Nabanna, a furious Mamata announced her party's decision to hit the streets from Saturday against the arrest, which she described as "unethical, undemocratic and unconstitutional".

 

Initially, Mamata did not address the media but left the task to the party that launched a fusillade of familiar charges ranging from political motivation to vindictiveness.

 

One omission stood out in the official statement: there was no claim that Madan was innocent. Mamata later vigorously defended Madan but Trinamul somehow did not find the clean chit important enough to include in a 600-word synopsis issued in the evening.

 

"Had he done anything wrong, I would have removed him. But he is innocent. So, I will not accept his resignation letter," the chief minister said. "I will look after the department till he returns."

 

But even the chief minister appeared to leave some wiggle room for the possibility of something unexpected coming up during the probe, saying that the "nice" Madan has a habit of rushing into situations.

 

Madan khela dhula bhalobashe. O ektu horbor kore kintu manush bhalo (Madan loves sports. He rushes into things but he is a nice person)," the chief minister said.

 

Although the possibility of Madan's arrest was in the air for weeks, Mamata said: "A BJP leader had taken some names and claimed that they will be arrested during a meeting in Calcutta a few days ago. How did he get to know? It is a clear political conspiracy and vendetta...."

 

Given Madan's love of sports and his additional portfolio, Trinamul is fielding sportspersons on the streets to protest the arrest of Mitra.

 

Within Trinamul, speculation swirled around how Madan would react in CBI custody. "No one knows what Madan will tell the interrogators. Kunal has made so many allegations against Mamata. Who can stop Madan from doing so?" asked a senior party leader.

 

Trinamul insiders said uncertainty over Madan's response in custody had forced Mamata to stand by him in public. "There is no other way out for Didi but to hit the streets.... Had she accepted Madan-da's resignation or remained silent, it would have sent a signal that she accepted his involvement," said a Trinamul MP.

 

Trinamul sources also pointed to the growing discomfort over painter Suvaprasanna, Mamata's culture clan member under the scanner of both the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.

 

Some Trinamul leaders read in Mamata's response to Madan's arrest signs of jitters.

 

"Shyamapada (Mukherjee, textile minister) was questioned by the CBI. For that reason, she did not allow him to attend cabinet meetings. Now a minister has been arrested and yet she is defending him from the seat of power? Obviously, she is jittery," said a Trinamul source.

 

The Trinamul synopsis of Mamata's comments ends with the point: "Agenda of governance will not be affected by politics."

 

The times ahead should indeed be interesting.

 

- The Telegraph, Calcutta

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