“If we are hit, we will retaliate," Mamata Banerjee warned on Satuday
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) is facing mounting pressure over the Saradha chit fund scam, with one more party MP arrested on Friday, bring to three the number of its leaders behind bars. With growing calls for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to resign, her party claimed that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was being used by the central government to “settle political scores”.
The CBI arrested the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Srinjoy Bose on Friday after questioning him for six hours in connection with the Saradha scandal. In the morning, when entering the CBI office in Kolkata, Bose told reporters that he had been summoned as a “witness” in the case.
“As a law abiding citizen of the country I would cooperate with the investigators,” he claimed.
According to the Indian Express, Bose was arrested for failing to explain alleged financial transactions of Rs.10 crore ($1.67 million) between him and Saradha group CMD Sudipta Sen, who is currently also in jail.
Bose is the editor of Bengali daily Sambad Protidin and is also on the editorial board of TMC party mouthpiece Jago Bangla. He was booked on charges of “criminal conspiracy, misappropriation of funds and deriving undue advantage” from the Saradha group.
Announcing Bose’s arrest, CBI’s Kanchan Prasad said, “Bose has been arrested in the Saradha chit fund scam in Bengal for his prima facie involvement in the case.”
CBI sources told the Indian Express that the Saradha CMD during interrogation told investigators that he used to be under constant pressure from Bose to send him Rs. 50 lakh ($83,333) every month.
Days before his arrest, Bose had told The Indian Express, “My company Sambad Sambad Protidin had allegedly asigned an agreement with Sen to provide support to his channel for editorial expertise and content. It was a deal of Rs 10 crore, though Rs 1 crore remained unpaid by Sen. The deal was signed in September 2010 and it was over in May 2012.”
His arrest came a day after the Enforcement Directorate, which is running a parallel investigation to unearth the money trail, sealed five bank accounts, including two personal accounts of Bose and three of his newspaper.
The TMC predictably reacted sharply to Bose’s arrest. Party national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien told reporters, “The CBI is a political tool used by the previous government to settle political scores. Now the BJP is doing an action replay. They cannot combat the Trinamool politically. They have tried and failed. So what do they do? Let loose a discredited CBI.”
Bose’s arrest has come as a setback to Mamata Banerjee. He is the son of shipping magnet Swapan Sadhan Bose who was earlier a TMC Rajya Sabha MP till he made way for his son in 2012. According to the Times of India, Bose and Kunal Ghosh became MPs at around the same time and were Mamata’s choice to represent the media.
Nevertheless the chief minister remains defiant and has rejected calls for her to resign.
“Amake jail-e pathak, dekhe nebo (Let them send me to jail, I will retaliate. I will see how big a jail there is),” Mamata warned on Saturday, addressing a TMC meeting attended by party MPs, ministers and MLAs.