In the name of Maa Sarada

Ranabir Ray Choudhury | Updated on March 12, 2018

Mamata in Saradha mess. — V.V. Krishnan

The people of West Bengal perhaps do not deserve all that is happening in their State today. When in May 2011 they gave a landslide victory to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, the hope was for a new dawn emerging in a state which, during the previous 34 years, had been ruled without a break by a Left Front dispensation. There is no point in going into the pros and cons of that regime, which is a complex subject in itself, but it is clear from the electoral mandate given by the people that they wanted a change. And since Mamata Banerjee was around at the time, she reaped an unbelievably rich harvest.

Didi has been in the saddle for just about two years and it is sad that there is a general consensus today that her Government has been wanting in the spheres of policy and implementation to get West Bengal going once again. The latest issue to blow up in her face is the bursting of the Saradha group bubble, which has not only brought untold misery to thousands of poor who put their money into the group, but which has also implicated Mamata Banerjee herself in view of the close association of the group with a number of Trinamool personalities. In fact, the Chief Minister can hardly deny that she had met the group’s chairman-cum-managing director (now on the run) at a hush-hush meeting at Delo near Kalimpong in 2011.

Legal battle has begun

At the time of writing, there is every sign that the issue will continue to sully the image of the TMC. For the Left Front, the Saradha issue, which has already claimed two lives, could not have come at a better moment in view of the fact that the SFI assault in New Delhi earlier this month on the State Finance Minister, Amit Mitra, had appeared to help the Trinamool Congress recoup somewhat its tattered image following the death of a young SFI activist in Kolkata a few days earlier.

After virulent criticism of the West Bengal Chief Election Commissioner’s commendable stand on holding the forthcoming elections with the help of Central forces, which the State is bent on opposing, Mamata must now be immensely relieved that the legal battle has begun which will, among other things, have the effect of pushing back the polls by some weeks at the very least. This is because Saradha has pulled down Trinamool’s stock to an abysmally low level, and holding the panchayat polls in the weeks ahead would almost certainly have been a disaster for the party. The danger, however, is that, in view of the track record of the Trinamool in lurching from one crisis to another, there is every chance of its reputation sinking even further with time, which would make a delayed panchayat election even more of a problem for the party.

Really no reprieve in sight

It remains to be seen how Mamata will extricate herself, if at all, from the Saradha mess, conducted under a portrait of Maa Sarada located strategically behind the CMD in his office. There is in fact little hope that she will be able do so effectively in view of the utter incapability of her senior party colleagues in being able to conduct themselves with propriety. One Minister, who has had a long association with the group’s CMD, was made president of the Saradha employees union. A party Rajya Sabha MP, who left no holds barred in criticising the group in a series of signed articles in the Bengali daily Pratidin in June 2010 — the brunt of his message being that the Left Front Government was doing nothing to rein in chit funds from wreaking havoc in the interior areas of the West Bengal — was appointed chief executive officer of the Saradha group’s media units in April 2011, on a hefty salary.

When one considers the fact that every rupee involved in this exercise came from the hard-earned savings of the poor, which are now lost for all practical purposes, there can really be no reprieve for those who conducted the Saradha business and those who offered protection to it and gave it the face of respectability. One feels sorry for Mamata Banerjee, but then she can be only as good as her colleagues and not the other way round.

Published on April 25, 2013

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