KOLKATA: The Central Bureau of Investigation Monday summoned Trinamool Congress general secretary and former railway minister Mukul Roy for questioning in connection with the multi-crore-rupee Saradha chit fund scam.
The opposition termed the development a major "setback" for the Trinamool, while West Bengal's ruling party accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government of using the CBI as a "political tool".
Confirming that he has been called for questioning, Roy - presently in Delhi - said he would appear before the CBI once he returns to Kolkata.
"Question doesn't arise about any summons but I have been informed by the CBI. I am here (in Delhi) for a day or two, and once I go back to Kolkata, I will definitely meet the CBI people," Roy, a Rajya Sabha member, told reporters in Delhi.
"I have never been involved in any illegal or immoral activity. They (CBI) have called me but I am here. Once I return to Kolkata, I will meet them," he added.
TMC Alleges Political Pressure
Claiming that the CBI's summons to Roy was yet to be received, Trinamool spokesperson and Rajya Sabha chief whip Derek O'Brien wondered if the investigating agency was being run by BJP president Amit Shah.
"The nasty ploy of using the CBI as a political tool by the BJP continues. They could not fight us politically in Bengal in the Lok Sabha elections. So now, these dirty tactics months before the corporation elections. We will fight them - strongly, politically," O'Brien said in a statement.
"This is blatant vindictiveness. The so-called summons has not yet reached and the BJP honchos are already giving bytes. Is the CBI being run by (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi's office or by Amit Shah at the BJP headquarters?" asked O'Brien.
"This is a deliberate bid to try and finish all regional parties and they are doing this against many states. The Trinamool functioned almost as the main opposition party in parliament. By doing this, the BJP hopes to silence us. This devious strategy will not succeed, because we do not succumb. We fight politically," he added.
Trinamool in Trouble
Four Trinamool leaders - including Rajya Sabha members Kunal Ghosh and Srinjoy Bose, and state Transport Minister Madan Mitra - have been arrested in connection with the scam.
While Ghosh was nabbed by the Special Investigation Team of the state police which earlier handled the probe, the CBI rounded up the other three after it was handed over the probe by the Supreme Court last year.
The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have also questioned many Trinamool MPs as part of the probe.
Opposition Trains Guns on TMC
Claiming that the Trinamool frontline leadership was involved in the scam, BJP national secretary S.N. Singh said Roy's summoning was a major setback for the state's ruling party.
"The summoning of Roy by the CBI is a big setback for the Trinamool. Moreover, Roy was the last person whom Saradha chief Sudipta Sen had met before he fled to Kashmir. So his summoning by the CBI is a significant step," the BJP leader said.
Former state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said Roy's summoning by the CBI "was imminent".
"It has become evident how the Trinamool's frontline leadership was directly and indirectly involved in the scam. Their involvement in ruining lakhs of poor people cannot be denied," he said.
CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechury demanded that properties of all those involved in the scandal should be confiscated and sold off and every person connected to the graft be called for questioning, irrespective of their positions including Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
"The matter must be investigated in its entirety and all those who are involved irrespective of their position must be quizzed and if found guilty, action must be taken against them.
"More importantly, the money that was swindled from the poor must be returned by confiscating and selling their properties, whatever position they may hold, including the chief minister," Yechury said.
"If the investigating agency feels that the truth of the matter will come only then, then I think they should not hesitate," said Yechury, whose party has been clamouring for questioning of Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee.