The chit fund scam that hit West Bengal in 2013 was raked up again on Tuesday. And with it, the issue of how much chit fund companies had allegedly paid to buy paintings by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. BJP chief Amit Shah made no bones about it at his rally at Kanthi, about 150 km from Kolkata. Using somewhat unusual rhetoric, he said, the BJP would do to ensure the victims of the scam got their money back by making the "chitfundwallas vomit" out every single penny they stole.
Mocking Ms Banerjee and her paintings, Mr Shah said, "She is a very good painter. Do you know how many rupees her paintings sell for? Not 20,000 or 50,000. Chit fund owners bought her paintings for crores of rupees."
"If she becomes Chief Minister , will she crackdown on the chit fund wallas? No! 25 lakh people have lost their money. Give BJP just one chance and we will make the chitfundwalas vomit out every penny they stole from you. She can't do it. Chun chun kay we will find each of them and take action," he said.
The Trinamool labelled Mr Shah's comments as defamation and minister Chandrima Bhattacharya sent a notice to Mr Shah on Tuesday evening, warning of legal action if he did not publicly apologise for his comments on the paintings and Ms Banerjee. "He has no evidence to prove what he said. He has maligned and defamed Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool party. We won't tolerate this," she said.
Trinamool's Derek O'Brien hit back at Mr Shah, saying, "What was the claim? The BJP will get chit fund people to justice. Fact, the Trinamool worked proactively and brought chit fund people back from Kashmir. On the other hand, after demonetisation, the highest amounts of notes were deposited in a bank where Amit Shah was a director. The turnover of the company owned by the son ...we know how many times that increased."
Another Trinamool minister Suvendu Adhikari was also quick to hit back. "Why hasn't the BJP done anything about the so called chit fund scam in the last five years they have been in power?" he said. "We have been hearing these threats for a long time. First let the BJP explain their links with Sahara group in Uttar Pradesh and then point fingers at Bengal," he added.
After the scam broke in April 2013, several chit fund company owners were arrested and jailed. Many Trinamool leaders too were questioned by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate and a few have even been jailed. But they are all out on bail at this moment.
Last week, however, a prominent film producer based in Kolkata, Srikant Mohta, was arrested by the CBI for defrauding a chit fund company of Rs 25 crore. Mr Mohta is known to be close to the Trinamool leadership and allegedly one of the buyers of Mamata Banerjee's paintings which Amit Shah claimed had been sold for crores.
Mr Mohta was taken to Bhubaneswar court after his arrest last week and sent to 14 days in judicial custody. On Tuesday, the CBI has been granted two-day custody of Mr Mohta so that it can interrogate him on the money he allegedly received from chit funds and how much he spent on buying Ms Banerjee's paintings.
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