The real scam is the fake (pro-poor) image

South Bengal goes to elections just as the Saradha chit fund scam is exploding in the face of Mamata “Didi” Banerjee. Millions of poor were robbed, and the daku-in-chief Sudipta Sen cultivated favors with the one (wo)man ruling party by buying Didi’s paintings for a few crores. A most ingenious way to rob Peter to pay Paul.

What makes the hypocrisy so glaring is that this is the same lady who is supposedly fighting 24/7 for the poor. She refused to raise train fares and caused the Indian railways to nearly collapse from a lack of funds. As Chief Minister of Bengal she refuses to raise bus fares, so much so that bus owners have reduced frequency and even stopped plying their vehicles. In the absence of buses, poor people have  to pay ten times the cost and travel by auto-rickshaws (who are often non-cooperative and rude). It is difficult to believe that even Communists were not so moronic.

Those training guns against the UPA-II for a
series of scams — 2G, Coalgate, the Commonwealth Games — may find it
amusing but in Bengal, the Rs 2,400-crore Saradha Ponzi muddle looms larger
than the other scams. Mamata Banerjee’s “honest” brand image has
taken a beating
in the last two phases of the LS polls spread over 23
constituencies in south Bengal where the “twin flowers”, the TMC symbol,
have a monopoly.

On Friday, a group of Saradha victims were
beaten up, allegedly by Trinamool supporters, when they blocked railway tracks
at Garia station.

“The government has cheated us. It
promised us compensation. But we are yet to get it,” said an injured Bijoy
Sapui. Ashim Chatterjee, a former Naxal leader who is now the president of the
Chit Fund Sufferers’ Association, lodged a complaint with the police.  The
Saradha story is not just about a Ponzi bubble that burst a year ago,
devastating 18 lakh people who had parked their money in the schemes. Bengal
had had a similar experience in 1980, when the chit fund Sanchayita Investments
mopped up more than Rs 120 crore from small depositors, only to shut shop

But the recent Saradha scam has drawn into
its vortex a host of individuals and institutions — from senior politicians and
bureaucrats to football clubs, Tollywood and even the media, where some of the
ill-gotten money was sunk.

The embers of resentment were fanned by BJP’s
Narendra Modi during his campaign in Bengal. While Congress president Sonia
Gandhi had earlier harped on the loot by the Saradha Group and the alleged
inaction by the state, Modi touched a nerve because he hinted that
politicians had directly benefited from the Saradha money. Modi didn’t name the
Saradha Group, but he hit the right notes by raising an obvious question:
“Who bought Mamata Banerjee’s paintings for Rs 1.8 crore?”
boss Sudipta Sen, now in custody, muddied the waters further by coming up with
a rebuttal: “I didn’t buy Mamata’s paintings. I don’t know who bought
them,” Sen said.

Taking a cue from Modi, former CPM minister
Gautam Deb hit the TMC chief where it hurt the most. Deb revealed the
income-tax returns filed by Trinamool that show that the party earned Rs 2.53
crore by selling Mamata’s paintings in the 2012-13 fiscal.
“How could
then Mamata give Rs 3.93 crore to party mouthpiece ‘Jago Bangla’ in the 2011-12
fiscal?” Deb asked.


Brown Pundits