The arrest of Bengali actor-turned-Trinamool lawmaker Tapas Pal by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday for his alleged links with multi-crore ponzi scam of firm Rose Valley may again bring sleepless nights to India’s ‘poorest Chief Minister’ Manik Sarkar of Tripura, whose clean image has taken a dent due to his alleged links with Rose Valley, a firm originally based out of the northeastern state.
Even as Trinamool leaders including supremo Mamata Banerjee and spokesperson Derek O’ Brien smelled central conspiracy over the arrest of Tapas Pal, voices have already started emerging in Tripura whether Manik Sarkar would be next on the radar of CBI investigations.
“If we go by TMC’s allegation that CBI is working at the behest of the BJP-run Centre and trying to corner the party by sending summons to two of its MPs and arresting one of them as a response to the party’s pitched opposition to demonetisation, it should not be forgotten that BJP is seeing a meteoric rise in Tripura. It has massively improved its vote share in the recent by-elections, even coming runners-up in one of the two seats. The state is going to elections in 2018, where the BJP is expecting to make serious inroads, if not form the government. But for that they have to take on the still revered image of Manik Sarkar along with ground work of CPM, based on which the left party has maintained its northeastern base. To malign CPM and Manik Sarkar, serious probe into the Chief Minister’s and the party MLAs links with Rose Valley would be the best possible weapon for BJP,” a political analyst based in Agartala told The New Indian Express.
Isolated voices have already started erupting among Tripura residents, with several individuals on Saturday posting on social media Manik Sarkar’s speech during inauguration of Rose Valley’s amusement park in Agartala in 2008, where he was seen praising the firm and its owner Gautam Kundu stating how the theme park would be a boon for the city and the state as a whole. Manik Sarkar has been accused by the Congress of providing land at subsidised rates to Rose Valley for the amusement park, which he has denied.
Former Congress leader of opposition Sudip Roy Barman, now famous as the Trinamool state secretary who ran off with the speaker’s mace recently, had even produced land documents of the park in April 2015, stating that of the 16.5 hectares of the amusement park, half of the land had been provided by the state government at a subsidised rate and the other half encroached from the original tribal landowners. He has alleged that along with Bijita Nath, the lone woman minister in Sarkar cabinet, six Left Front MLAs were directly involved in the businesses of Rose Valley.
Facing the ire of the opposition Congress and Trinamool Congress, the Left Front government even had to withdraw the Tripura Protection of Interest of Depositors (In Financial Establishment) Amendment Bill, 2016 in December 2016 despite having an overwhelming majority of 51 MLAs in an Assembly of 60. The move by the Left Front to supposedly protect the depositors from the Non Banking Financial Company (NBFC) was defeated as the opposition said that the provisions in the bill was not 'fool proof' to protect the depositors. The withdrawal of the bill also exposed the insecurities of Left Front government in terms of NBFCs in general and Rose Valley in particular.
Rose Valley CMD Gautam Kundu, who owned over 700 acres of land in 12 states along with 23 hotels and over 150 cars, took over his small family business based in Agartala after death of his brother Kajal Kundu and his family in a car crash in 2003 and turned it into the Rs 17,000-crore firm.