The Saradha chit fund scam on Wednesday snowballed into a major political controversy with the names of two Trinamool Congress Members of Parliament figuring in a letter purportedly written to the Central Bureau of Investigation by the collapsed company's chairman Sudipta Sen.
In a damage control measure, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced the setting up of a Rs 500-crore relief fund for the investors who were allegedly duped by the group which has gone bust.
Obliquely referring to TMC MP Kunal Ghosh, who had recently resigned as the CEO of the Saradha Media Group which had owned a TV news channel, and party MP Srinjoy Bose, editor of a Bengali daily, Banerjee said, "One journalist is being targeted. There are so many journalists. There is no use of identifying one channel and one newspaper.
"If any MP of Trinamool Congress has committed an offence, the law will take its own course," she said, accusing the Communist Party of India – Marxist of politicising the issue.
Srinjoy Bose, on his part, said his paper did have a professional tie-up with 'Channel 10' TV in 2010 but not with the Saradha chit fund company or any other ancillary.
Asked about the antecedents of the Saradha Group chairman, he replied, "We did not know that the man was a fraud."
He also said there was no relationship between his party and the Saradha Group.
Meanwhile, Sudipta Sen and two other Saradha officials were flown to Kolkata after the West Bengal police were granted four-day transit remand by a court in Ganderbal in
Jammu and Kashmir, following their arrest on Tuesday.
The Congress sought a CBI probe into the scam as there were reports of the involvement of Trinamool Congress leaders.
"It has been said that a section of Trinamool Congress leaders are indirectly or directly connected with the Saradha Group and protected its interests," West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee chief Pradip Bhattacharya said.
"There is also talk of the involvement of leaders of other parties," he said.
He, however, declined to name any of the TMC MPs, saying, "I don't want to take any names unless I have the proof. Let there be a CBI probe. The truth will come out."
CPI-M leader Surjyakanta Mishra said his party had no faith in any inquiry by the state government.
Alleging links between the TMC government and the Saradha Group, he claimed that Sen was given enough time before his arrest.
"There is a reason to believe that the letter written by Sen was almost dictated by a TMC leader, in which names of other party’s leaders were included so that the focus on TMC is diverted, except the leaders of the party who they want to get rid of," he alleged.
On the other hand, Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee claimed that chit funds mushroomed in the state during the Left Front’s rule.
"Now they have taken to the streets to create trouble and the Congress has also joined them," he said.
Asked about the alleged involvement of two TMC MPs, Chatterjee, the secretary general of the party, replied, "We want a bold inquiry. None involved will be spared, no matter whichever party they belong to."
TMC MP Saugata Roy said that no action was taken against chit funds during the Left Front’s rule.
On party MP Somen Mitra's letter on the mushrooming of chit funds in the state, Roy said he had written to the prime minister and it was for the PM to take action on the matter.
Meanwhile, the Centre said it had no role in governing the chit fund business, which was regulated by state governments.
"Chit funds in India are governed by the Chit Funds Act, 1982. Under this Act, the chit fund businesses can be registered and regulated only by the respective state governments," said a source in the ministry of corporate affairs in Delhi.