Bengal Battle Cry: Corruption and ‘Lal Salam’

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New Delhi: In the run-up to the much-awaited assembly elections in West Bengal, it would be erroneous to suggest that the ‘Muslim appeasement’ of Mamata Banerjee regime, lawlessness and issues like CAA would be only major poll issues. The BJP leaders now gearing up for the royale battle of 2021 have realised the importance of taking up ‘corruption’ issues. Interestingly, the corruption card can be used not only against the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress regime vis-à-vis Saradha scam and alleged mafia rule. But the communists, those who ruled the state for over three decades, have not been sacred cows on corruption issues either. A section of BJP leaders in the state have started working on several instances and allegations of financial defalcation against the Leftists.
“The Left Front was in power for 34 long years and thus a large section in the CPI(M) leadership and workers was very much involved in corruption and various other activities,” says a party leader in the know of things.
The saffron party is thus preparing a long list of high-profile and mid-level cases where the needle of suspicions vis-a-vis corruption charges had hit the Marxists led regime once. There is a living instance when in 1993, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who later became the Chief Minister, had ‘suddenly resigned’ from the Basu cabinet.
Interestingly enough, senior politicians and political observers in the state recall an ‘ugly’ episode when Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s daughter Suchetana had made a hugely controversial statement – “My father is an honest person and he has quit as he does not want to remain in the 'Choreder Sarkar (a government-run by corrupt people)'.
Much later in 2013, when Mamata-regime was in power even Suchetana was alleged running an NGO that had gained financially from the Tatas. The allegation was denied.
Of course, the Marxists’ doyen and state’s Bhadralok (gentleman) politician Jyoti Basu did not quite like these episodes.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's sudden resignation on August 27, 1993 had created a crisis for the Basu-led dispensation after the chief minister "disapproved" of the way he dealt with bureaucrats. It may be also recalled that veteran Benoy Choudhury, also a Gandhian turned communist, had called the Basu government a “choreder sarkar (thieves’ government)”.
The BJP sources say the mega episode had certainly left Basu anguished.
“Many people were not surprised when Benoy Chowdhury, also an onetime powerful Minister under Basu, exposed the so-called Promoter Raj. Chowdhury had alleged that the Left Front dispensation under Basu had turned out to be a Government of the contractors,” a BJP insider said. Of course, there were more such cases during the Basu regime and among others – Basu’s son Chandan and two brothers-in-law also allegedly benefited.
Another key party leader Prasanta Sur was also allegedly involved in the earth-filling scandal.
In later years, the charge against Urban Development Minister Sur was that he had shown favour to two contracting firms, M.S. Contractors and Krupp Engineering, who were engaged in earth-filling work for 175 acres of largely marshy land in the eastern suburbs of Kolkata as with regard to the World Bank-assisted township project.
In fact, there is little gainsaying to point out that many sons, sons-in-law and other relatives of the Left leaders and ministers were also accused of siphoning off huge amounts in various ‘legal and illegal activities’ but with the knowledge of the party establishment. Some amount allegedly always reached out to party funding.
However, a striking issue had come up during the tenure of Late Rajiv Gandhi’s stint as the Prime Minister.
A die-hard anti-Left leader Ajit Panja, who later joined Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, had conducted a central government agencies-led probe into the ‘assets’ of CPI-M and other Left Front leaders. The inquiry was conducted by N K Sengupta, a senior IAS officer. The findings were alarming, but due to some reasons, Rajiv Gandhi developed cold feet and the report was never published.
Basu himself was aware of the developments and thus he had his reasons when he dismissed the entire saga saying, “This is all concocted and bogus”.
The BJP leaders – now putting up a determined battle to capture power in a state where it was considered a pariah for long – say of course the Trinamool’s corruption vis-a-vis sand mafia, Narada and Saradha would be highlighted, but the “manner” the Leftists cheated the people of West Bengal should also be known.