First lamb: Kunal offers to resign
Calcutta, April 26: Trinamul MP Kunal Ghosh today offered to resign from the Rajya Sabha if investigations revealed that he was associated with the money market operations of the Saradha Group.
Ghosh, who has been saying he had no connection with the default crisis, communicated his message to Mamata Banerjee in a five-and-a-half-page letter hand-written in Bengali.
"If you instruct, I am ready to resign from the Rajya Sabha any time. Your directive is the last word for me," Ghosh wrote in the letter, which was uploaded on the Trinamul website late tonight.
Some sources in Trinamul said a criminal case lodged against Ghosh in Park Street police station by a section of employees of Channel 10, a Saradha Group company, last night may have forced the hand of the MP.
In the letter to the chief minister, Ghosh iterated that his role was limited to the affairs of the company's media interests and he had no role in Saradha's deposit-mobilising activities.
The decision to make the letter public was significant as sources in Trinamul said it was an indication that the party was officially distancing itself from him, a move that will make it difficult for Ghosh to continue as a Rajya Sabha MP.
"The letter is written to the chief minister… she will take a decision," said a senior minister. "But I don't think that the party can show any leniency towards him," he added.
The journalist-turned-MP was the executive chairman of the media house of the Saradha Group till he resigned earlier this month.
As his name got dragged into the default crisis and caused embarrassment to the ruling establishment, a section in the party was demanding his resignation.
At a Trinamul parliamentary party meeting in Delhi earlier this week, two MPs —Sisir Adhikari and Subhendu Adhikari — had openly asked him to tender his resignation as a purported letter from Sudipta Sen, the arrested Saradha chief, had levelled charges against Ghosh. Ghosh had maintained that he was only a salaried employee of Sen.
Viewed against the backdrop of the brave face Ghosh had been adopting till now, the letter is being seen as an indication that the pressure on him is mounting.
"Amake akromon-er lakkhyabastu kora hoyeche, dal ke kutshamulok bhabe jorano hochhe, (I have been made the target and the party is being maligned)," Ghosh wrote in the letter.
The charges filed against Ghosh and six other officials of the news channel — ranging from criminal breach of trust to cheating — carry a maximum punishment of seven years in jail.
Of the six charges, two are non-bailable — which means Ghosh can be granted bail only by a court and not by the police station itself. Going by the rulebook, the non-bailable sections mean an accused cannot escape arrest unless he secures anticipatory bail.
A police officer, however, said arrest was not mandatory.
But Ghosh's party colleagues predicted political damage. "You can say that Kunal's innings in our party is almost over. We know that the FIR has non-bailable sections and law will take its own course. The chief minister has made it clear that no one with connection to the default crisis will be spared," said a senior Trinamul minister.
Others said if Ghosh resigned, it would only send out a signal that the party had found a scapegoat and the more powerful leaders had not been touched. It remains to be seen if a sacrificial lamb can help douse the furore triggered by the default scandal.
Police said all the persons against whom they have received complaints would be examined.
"We have started a case against Sudipta Sen, Kunal Ghosh, Somnath Dutta and five others based on the complaint lodged by Ritam Das of Channel 10 and 21 others. We will proceed according to the need of the investigation," said Pallab Kanti Ghosh, joint commissioner (crime).
According to the complaint, Ghosh and the six officials played an "active role" in propagating the Saradha Group's fiscal schemes using the resources meant for Channel 10.
The complaint lodged with the Park Street police station claimed the accused had been using the office premises for "storage of documents, papers, cash linked with the obscure fiscal irregularities" of the Saradha Group.
Haste worry on bill
The abrupt haste with which the Trinamul government is drafting a new bill to protect investors and penalise defaulters has raised concerns if the legislation would be vulnerable to legal challenge as was the case after the Singur land bill was pushed through.