For two BJP leaders — Himanta Biswa Sarma and Mukul Roy — both questioned in the multi-crore Saradha Ponzi scam life have some unmissable similarities. Known for their political acumen, both the leaders have joined the BJP when the heat of the Saradha scam probe was increasingly becoming too hot to handle. Similarly, both of them were quite close to their chief ministers in their earlier parties and acted as the go-to man in all circumstances be it polls or other crises.
With the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee's Save the Constitution sit-down protest in Kolkata alleging Centre's highhandedness with the Central Bureau of Investigation's attempt to arrest Kolkata Police commissioner Rajeev Kumar from his residence on Sunday has thrown up references which the BJP might not be very comfortable with ahead of the Lok Sabha polls due in a couple of months. That the CBI team got detained and then got let off later instead is, of course, another example of political brinkmanship.
"I have enough evidence against the Assam deputy chief minister (Himanta). I dare Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah to have him arrested. The CBI has already questioned him before," Mamata said while addressing the crowd at the sit-in venue on Sunday night.
Himanta's name has been cropping up in the Saradha Ponzi scheme scam running into thousands of crores for years now with the CBI raiding his residence and a regional news channel owned by his wife in August 2014. According to a report in The Economic Times, Himanta "is accused of receiving Rs 20 lakh per month from Saradha boss Sudipta Sen for helping him run his business in Assam without hassles."
This happened at a time when the present Assam finance and health minister, then part of the Congress, was struggling to be in the good books of his boss then chief minister Tarun Gogoi. It turned out to be irreparable and the Himanta was forced to quit the Congress to remain politically significant. Worse, the heat of the Saradha probe soon gathered steam and Himanta realised that unless drastic measures are not taken his career was at stake.
It was on 23 August 2015 when a few video journalists from various regional channels in Assam were curiously waiting in front of Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah's residence in New Delhi for a vehicle to arrive around dusk. Soon after the vehicle reached the location with two key people inside — former Assam BJP state president Siddhartha Bhattacharya and former Assam Congress leader Himanta. The meeting was a precursor to Himanta's grand entering into the BJP a week later on 28 August, 2015 after a huge roadshow in Guwahati.
For the BJP to have a person in their ranks, who was with the Congress for 23 years and was considered former chief minister Tarun Gogoi's Man Friday, it was the acquisition of a massive asset when it came to politics. Results did indeed show up later as the BJP formed the state government in Assam in May 2016 for the first time ever with Sarbananda Sonowal as the chief minister. Himanta has so far played a crucial role in ensuring BJP's inroads into the North East with the party's participation in governance in all the states either partially or completely.
With Himanta joining the BJP, the CBI probe against him on the Saradha scam slowed down considerably and apart from minor flutters, nothing major has happened that threatens his career. It is unlikely that the CBI would jump to act against Himanta despite the claims made by Mamata. The BJP can hardly afford to get Sarma distracted at this juncture when the General Election is due soon. Besides, there is also the grapevine that with the CBI probe hanging like a Damocles' Sword on the Assam finance minister, it also helps the party to rein him if he possesses any immediate chief ministerial ambitions at all. For now, Sarma needs the BJP as much the party needs him.
Like Himanta, Roy was a senior leader of the Trinamool Congress and was quite close to Mamata. After joining the BJP, the former Trinamool man will face his first litmus test when the country votes for a new Lok Sabha in April-May. Out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, Trinamool Congress had won 34 in 2014 while Darjeeling and Asansol went to the BJP. Roy has a formidable task of turning the table.
The former railway minister was quizzed by the CBI in January 2015 regarding the Ponzi scheme scam, following which, he lost the party post of all-India general secretary and other positions that he held in his capacity although he continued to be a Trinamool member.
"Known as the party’s (Trinamool) chief poll strategist and often referred to as Chanakya in internal circles, Roy was instrumental in securing the TMC’s victory in 2011," a report said and the BJP hopes Roy would replicate the same in the coming General Elections.
The former Trinamool leader, who was, in fact, the founder member of the party, found himself increasingly sidelined after the CBI questioning ultimately leading to a fallout with the chief minister. Soon after, Roy joined the BJP he trained his guns on the TMC even alleging that Mamata had met Saradha boss Sen many a time. It's no brainer that the BJP would keep the heat on the TMC as the Lok Sabha poll approaches and Roy has his task cut out. By keeping the TMC leaders busy with the scam, the BJP hopes to leverage in the chaos that might ensue for the regional outfit and this is when Mukul Roy must prove his mettle.
As the threat of CBI engaging itself in hot pursuit at the slightest notice is always there, Himanta and Roy have little choice but to perform like warhorses to make the lotus bloom in the upcoming poll.
The Great Diwali Discount!
Unlock 75% more savings this festive season. Get Moneycontrol Pro for a year for Rs 289 only.
Coupon code: DIWALI. Offer valid till 10th November, 2019 .
Updated Date: Feb 05, 2019 16:32:21 IST