Kolkata, May 11 (IANS) As if the raging multi-crore Saradha Group chit fund scam was not enough, the Calcutta High Court verdict underlining the primacy of the State Election Commission (SEC) has come as a telling blow to West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee regime, which has been getting increasingly cornered on various issues.
The Banerjee government – adamant on conducting a two-phased rural polls with only state security personnel – had locked horns with the SEC, which was set up by the erstwhile Left Front government for overseeing polls to the rural and municipal bodies.
But on Friday, the state government got a rap on the knuckle from the court, which allowed the SEC to have its say in conducting the polls.
The SEC has been directed to conduct the polls in three stages under the vigil of central security forces.
The state government, however, has vowed to fight against the verdict which it described as “impractical, impossible to implement and unacceptable”.
“We will move the division bench Monday,” said Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee.
The order has given much-needed ammunition to Banerjee’s political rivals, who have been attacking her for rejecting the commission’s recommendations of a three-stage elections by deploying central security forces.
The opposition called Banerjee’s latest legal setback as yet another example of the regime’s disregard for law.
“The government has repeatedly failed to work according to the law. Only a few days are left for this government to complete two years, but still it has not learnt how to govern,” said Left Front chairman Biman Bose.
Along with walking the political warpath, Banerjee’s rivals have been increasingly striding the legal avenue, which the feisty leader has found difficult to tread.
Among several court cases against some of the “whims” of the Banerjee government is a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the chit fund muddle, a verdict on which is likely to come soon with the agency showing its keenness to explore the matter.
Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress have been trying to keep the CBI out of the equation from the chit fund swindle, the biggest financial scam to rock the state.
She and her partymen have been questioning the agency’s integrity after it came under severe reprimand by the Supreme Court, which called it “a caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice”.
Not surprisingly the opposition – the Left Front and the Congress – have attacked Banerjee over the issue, saying that the Trinamool Congress is afraid of a CBI probe as it may reveal the party’s complicity in the scam.
Meanwhile, the man in the eye of the chit fund storm – Saradha Group boss Sudipta Sen – earlier had accused several political leaders, including a few from the Trinamool Congress, of colluding in the scam. Sen has threatened to name more politicians allegedly involved in the scam.
Behind bars and prosecuted for cheating and conspiracy, Sen has said he will “reveal everything once the investigation was complete”.
Sen’s “bare all” threat is likely to intensify the political brinksmanship over the financial racket which has robbed lakhs of depositors – mostly from rural areas and small towns – who had parked their hard-earned money, lured by the huge interest rates promised by the Saradha Group.
The collapse of the group has already resulted in several agents, depositors of Saradha and similar chit fund companies committing suicide.
Even as she is getting increasingly cornered by her rivals in her own state, Banerjee has taken the fight to the Congress at the centre, declaring that the United Progressive Alliance will not return for a third consecutive term.
Vowing to be the nemesis of the Congress in the coming Lok Sabha polls, she said: “Elections will be held in three to six months and we will bring a change in Delhi.”
(Anurag Dey can be contacted at [email protected])