Somen Mitra, the one-time pillar of the Trinamool Congress and now Congress candidate from Kolkata North constituency, can’t help smiling. The SC’s order directing the CBI to probe the Saradha scam is the fruit of his hard and lonely battle.
On the day when 17 constituencies in the state go to polls, Mitra speaks to Rediff.com’s Indrani Roy about the impact of the Saradha scam on the elections and his relationship with his former party chief.
The Saradha scam was a long and lonely battle but on Friday, former TMC MP and now Congress candidate from Kolkata North constituency, Somen Mitra, was a happy man after the SC ordered a probe into the chit fund scam.
On Friday, the former Trinamool Congress member of Parliament achieved a moral victory when the Supreme Court passed an order directing the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the Saradha scam. Mitra was the first to warn Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the chit fund scam in West Bengal back in July 2011. In his letter, he had stated that there were about 130 chit funds operating in the state and it was also the time when difference arose with then party supremo Mamata Banerjee. Mitra spoke to Rediff.com's Indrani Roy.
You must be glad now that the Supreme Court has ordered a CBI probe into the Saradha issue?
Of course. For me, this was a long and lonely fight. Even while I was a TMC MP, I reasoned with West Bengal chief minister and party chief Mamata Banerjee to order a CBI probe, but my appeals fell on deaf ears, as always. The SC verdict is a huge relief to me. I just hope justice isn’t delayed further.
Following the SC’s decision on Friday, TMC spokesperson and state Finance Minister Amit Mitra said that the party welcomed the verdict. At a rally, Mamata Banerjee too spoke on the same lines.
(Laughs) Banerjee and Mitra’s statements are their futile and ridiculous efforts to save face. How can they say anything else now? If they are so ecstatic about the SC verdict, why didn’t they allow a CBI probe earlier?
Do you think the CBI investigation will lead to the arrests of a few leading TMC leaders?
By now it is clear to even a child that some of the TMC leaders were involved in the scam. A number of TMC leaders openly supported the Saradha group of companies. The relevant video clippings are available with all leading regional channels. There is no way the TMC can wash its hands of the matter.
At a public rally, Banerjee also said that now it wasn’t her government’s responsibility to return people’s money, that onus was now on the CBI.
Banerjee’s comments prove her sheer lack of political maturity or she is acting in a naïve manner intentionally to hoodwink people. It’s not the CBI’s job to return the money that the people lost. The investigating agency is supposed to find out where all the money went. Neither the Special Investigation Team nor the Shyamal Kumar Sen Commission formed by the state government did anything to follow the money trail. Now, it’s the CBI’s turn to complete the unfinished task. Does Banerjee think people of this state are fools and they would buy whatever nonsense she feeds them?
How far has the Shyamal Sen Commission been successful?
The entire creation of the panel was a farce. In its effort to be zealous and pay back the people, or perhaps to sweep a few important details under the carpet, the state government formed this panel. The commission should be grilled by the CBI, as it has not done anything to protect the interests of the duped chit fund depositors. So far, it has only shielded the bigwigs involved in the Saradha scam and has led the investigation astray. Moreover, the members of the panel have been accepting a salary from the exchequer, which is bizarre.
Could you please elaborate a bit on this?
Why did the commission fail to question former Trinamool MP Kunal Ghosh, though he has been in custody for over six months? Moreover, the cheques delivered by the commission are bouncing at regular intervals. How could this happen? Isn’t it unconstitutional for the commission to use funds of the government exchequer to pay back the Saradha investors? When Saradha’s investors recently blocked the railway tracks for not getting compensation, Trinamool men beat them up. What did the commission do then? Nothing! The Sen Commission has acted as a pawn in the hands of the Trinamool supremo.
Is there a danger to the lives of Saradha group chief Sudipta Sen and former TMC MP Kunal Ghosh?
Oh, yes! The lives of both Sen and Ghosh are in danger and my sincere appeal to the police is to ensure their safety. Killing both of them will erase some vital clues of the case for good.
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On the topic of today’s election, it is heard that Mamata Banerjee took part in eight rallies in your constituency. Why was so much attention given here?
(Smiles) The fight in this constituency is between TMC candidate Sudip Bandyopadhyay and me. It’s a prestige battle for the TMC. They just can’t afford to let me win. However, the support that I have been getting from the people of this area is tremendous. If the number of people that attended my rallies and road shows translates into ballots, no force on earth can stop me from winning.
Reports of sporadic violence are pouring in from various parts of the state. Would you like to say anything on this?
This is the TMC’s desperate attempt to prevent the people from voting. They are trying to create a fear psychosis. They had made tall claims of sweeping all 42 seats of the state. But as they saw a steady fall in their popularity with each passing day, they resorted to violence.
And with the Supreme Court coming out with the order about Saradha just 48 hours before the final phase, TMC workers have gone out of their minds.
In an earlier interview to Rediff.com, you had said that if the Congress chooses to be in the Opposition, it would be the wisest decision. Do you feel the same now?
No. Going by the pre-election vibes, I do feel that we are going to have another term of government run by the United Progressive Alliance. A clear mandate by the people will throw the Modi wave out of the window.
Image: Congress candidate Somen Mitra says that if the number of people at his rallies translate into ballots, then no force can stop him from winning.