Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Left traded charges against each other over the chit fund scam in West Bengal on Wednesday. While the Left accused TMC of involvement, the latter said the chit fund companies were allowed to flourish even during the former's rule. "The Saradha group started in 2006. The chit fund companies mushroomed in Left regime. It's not only the question of Sudipto Sen. Clarifications have to be made on chit fund companies functioning since 1980s," TMC leader Partha Chatterjee said during a debate on India @ 9 with IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai.
During the debate, CPM leader Nilotpal Basu had said that the TMC must answer "as to why a motion on chit fund was disallowed when leader of opposition moved it in the West Bengal Assembly".
Dismissing the Left's allegations of involvement in the chit fund scam, Chatterjee alleged that the CPM paper Ganashakti had taken "maximum number of donations" from the Saradha group. "As a party, we deny any links with Saradha group," he added.
The TMC leader also said that action will be taken against "whoever is responsible... irrespective of party affiliation. We are with the investors. We are serious about protecting the interest of investors".
The TMC was left embarrassed after explosive details were revealed through a letter written by Saradha group promoter Sudipta Sen to the CBI on April 6. In the letter, Sen named top politicians, journalists, lawyers as having benefited from his company. Sen, in his letter, alleged that he forayed into the media business because he initially came under vicious attack from Bengal's Pratidin newspaper represented by TMC MPs Kunal Ghosh and Srinjoy Bose.
Sen, in the letter, also wrote that after he bought Channel 10, he entered into an agreement with Pratidin that he "shall pay Rs 60 lakh per month to Pratidin and apart from that Kunal Ghosh will also be appointed as the CEO of the channel at a salary of Rs 15 lakh per month".
Sen alleged that Pratidin assured him that because of his agreement, "they will protect my business from the state and central governments" and will grant him "smooth passage to chief minister Mamata Banerjee".
Sen also wrote that Kunal Ghosh, the CEO of his media business attacked him and forcefully made him sign papers which said that he had "sold Channel 10 to them for a meagre amount of Rs 55 lakh, which can never happen".
In the letter, Sen threatened to commit suicide saying he was "feeling helpless because of unscrupulous persons and cheats" who have collected public money in his name. Sen said he "cannot live in a society where people call me cheat or fraud or use slang against me".
While there was no clear statement or reaction from Kunal Ghosh, Srinjoy Bose, in an interview with IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, denied claims made by Sen that he was blackmailed by him and Ghosh. "These are baseless allegations. How can I offer protection? I was not even an MP then," he said.
He added, "There was no quid pro quo with Saradha."
The Left and the Congress have demanded a probe into the matter. Congress leader Pradeep Bhattacharya said, "We had said earlier also said that some TMC leaders were behind Saradha group. We had earlier demanded a CBI probe into this."
Left leader Gurudas Dasgupta said that both TMC MPs Kunal Ghosh and Srinjoy Bose should step down.
TMC leader Saugata Roy, however, said, "The TMC as a party is not involved in the scam. This has been done by a scamster. I have no knowledge of any personal connection between the TMC and the Saradha group."
He, however, said that the charges levelled against the TMC MPs were serious and the state government was handling "the investigation with all seriousness". "A judicial commission has been formed. The state government is planning to call a special Assembly session to enact a law against chit fund," he said. He added that it would be "nice if they step down, but it's according to them and what out party leadership decides". "The MPs should defend themselves," he added.