Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Has Mamata personally too been caught in the Sarada web? It seems so.

The multi-crore Saradha ponzi scam has now come knocking at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's door. 
It now appears that, back in 2010, when Ms Banerjee was the Union Railway minister, the Saradha Group had bagged a contract with the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, or IRCTC. It puts out of court her claims that she was not too familiar with the group till it went bust in 2013.
The deal involved Ms Banerjee's pet project, the 'Bharat Tirth' programme, a 16-train service to 10 pilgrimage centres that offered low-budget travel, accommodation and food. Saradha was one of several companies that had tied up with the IRCTC to offer tour packages.
Numerous allegations had been raised about the links between the Group -- which cheated thousands of people who invested in its schemes - and Ms Banerjee's party and government. But her role had never come under the scanner.
The latest disclosure comes after the CBI found papers relating to the deal, including and advertisement in which IRCTC, Indian Railways and Saradha logos are jointly displayed.
For Ms Banerjee, the timing could not have been worse. 
The Central Bureau of Investigation has already fast-tracked the probe into the case. And though Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha has turned down the Left's demand for a separate probe into the IRCTC-Saradha link, he has also categorically said the CBI will spare nobody. 
Speculation is rife that one of Ms Banerjee's ministers will be called for questioning very soon by the CBI. One minister, SP Mukhopadhyay, has already been quizzed by the Enforcement Directorate.
At the very least, that could be an embarrassment for the party. Last year, Kunal Ghosh, arrested parliamentarian of Trinamool Congress, had pointed fingers at Ms Banerjee, claiming she had been aware of the Group's activities and the party had accepted benefits from Saradha. 
Though TMC general secretary Mukul Roy has hit back, calling the CBI a "political" instrument, it could be difficult for the Bengal chief minister to evade uncomfortable questions this time.
 Story First Published: September 02, 2014 19:51 IST

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