Will Saradha scam be Trinamool’s Waterloo?

The Saradha scam is turning out to be the Trinamool Congress’ worst nightmare. Even party supremo Mamata Banerjee’s much-vaunted honesty and integrity have been called into question as the CBI probe seems to be getting closer to West Bengal’s ruling party.

The opposition parties, humbled in all recent polls, are sniffing a chance to stage a comeback.

As the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) dig deeper into the multi-crore-rupee muck, arresting and interrogating suspects, political rivals are saying that the state’s biggest financial scandal will become Trinamool’s ‘Waterloo’.

Besides arresting Trinamool leader and former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Rajat Majumdar and taking custody of suspended Rajya Sabha member Kunal Ghosh, the CBI has arrested or grilled many others said to be close to the ruling party.

The ED too has interrogated several parliamentarians and a state minister.

Political analysts refuse to write off Trinamool, but admit that the unfolding scenario may work to the opposition’s advantage.

“Though there is no evidence to suggest any wrongdoing on her (Banerjee’s) part, the scam has taken its biggest toll on Banerjee whose integrity and honesty – her USP – are now under the sword, especially after the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) deal became public,” political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty told IANS.

He said it still seems quite unbelievable that Banerjee could be dubbed a “corruption queen” by the BJP.

Majumdar’s arrest and Ghosh’s call for a joint interrogation with Banerjee were bound to corner the Trinamool.

“But its ouster from power is yet a distant proposition,” Chakraborty said.

Ghosh, who headed the media arm of the tainted company, has claimed Banerjee was the biggest beneficiary of the Saradha funded media blitz and called for a joint interrogation with Banerjee and scam kingpin Sudipta Sen for his assertions to be corroborated.

Accusing Banerjee, the then railways minister, of favouring Saradha in getting a contract with the IRCTC, the opposition has been demanding her resignation.

Buoyed by its Lok Sabha performance where its vote shares trebled, the Bharatiya Janata Party assertsthat the time for Trinamool was over.

“Undoubtedly, Saradha will be Trinamool’s Waterloo,” BJP national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh told IANS.

He opined that the crumble in Trinamool’s fort would begin from the Chowringhee and Basirhat South Assembly seats whose the bypoll results are slated to be announced Tuesday.

But political analyst Anil Kumar Jana insists that the BJP still lacks the organisational might to make a mark in the state and claims politics in Bengal has come a full circle with opposition parties collectively pointing fingers at the ruling outfit.

“The tables have now turned, much like the ordeal of the Left Front in the run-up to the 2011 polls where the combine was routed. Trinamool now faces the collective wrath of the Congress, the BJP and the CPI-M,” said Jana.

He said it might open up avenues of alliances for the Congress.

But state Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury ruled out any plans for an alliance.

“The space for the opposition is now wide open and whoever is able to assert itself and reach out to the people will be able to claim that space,” Chowdhury told IANS.

He conceded that the BJP has a fair chance of making headway in Bengal.

Notwithstanding the CPI-M’s failure so far to arrest its decline, party state secretariat member Gautam Deb insists the people’s disgust over the Saradha scam will allow the Marxists to claw back into reckoning.

But for former Naxal leader Ashim Chatterjee, the state is heading towards political uncertainty.

“Undoubtedly, Trinamool is headed for its doom, but how far the opponents stand to benefit is a big question. Bengal is headed towards a political uncertainty with Saradha playing a catalytic role,” Chatterjee, who heads a forum of chit fund depositors, told IANS.

Breaking her silence after a barrage of accusations, Banerjee now claims Trinamool has not taken a single penny from Saradha, and berates a section of media for running a smear campaign.

(Anurag Dey can be contacted at anurag.d@ians.in)

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