Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday termed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's charge that he was involved in the Saradha chit fund scam as "frivolous", even as the state Youth Congress staged a protest in front of the CBI office here, seeking his arrest. The minister also said he had offered full cooperation in the ponzi scheme case as a witness.
"The frivolous & baseless campaign by @MamataOfficial Didi against me is very painful. I am not fortunate enough like your Police Commissioner. I've joined the investigations and offered my full cooperation as a witness. And all this happened much much before I joined @BJP4India," Sarma said in a tweet.
Apparently referring to Sarma, Banerjee, who is staging a sit-in protest since Sunday night over the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) attempt to question the Kolkata Police chief in connection with the chit fund scam, had said on Monday that she had "enough evidence against the Assam deputy chief minister" in the case.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief had also dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah to get him arrested. Training guns on Sarma, Assam Youth Congress activists staged a demonstration outside the CBI office here, demanding his arrest for his alleged involvement in the Saradha chit fund scam and the Louise Berger case, involving a water supply project in Guwahati.
They shouted slogans, accusing the minister of receiving Rs 20 lakh per month from Saradha group chairman Sudipta Sen for running his business in Assam. One of the protesters said, "The Modi-led BJP government is misusing the CBI. Sarma switched to the BJP from the Congress when the heat of the Saradha scam probe was becoming too hot for him to handle."
Another Youth Congress activist alleged that the CBI probe into the Saradha scam "slowed down considerably" after Sarma joined the BJP. "West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has clearly stated that Sarma was involved in the chit fund scam," Assam Congress spokesperson Pradyut Bordoloi told reporters here.
"Apart from Saradha, the BJP had earlier accused Sarma of involvement in the Louis Berger scam. A number of arrests were made in Goa in connection with this scam, but no action was taken in Assam," the former Assam minister said. It seemed that Sarma was cleared of all the charges after he joined the saffron party, he added.
"Himanta has a history of changing allegiance to save his skin. When TADA cases were slapped against him, he had left the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) to join the Congress. Later, he joined the BJP to save himself from the Saradha and Louis Berger cases," the former cabinet colleague of Sarma said.
In July 2015, the Louis Berger International Inc., a New Jersey-based construction management company, had told a US court that it had bribed government officials in India to bag a contract for project management consultancy in a water supply project in Guwahati. The then Congress government in Assam, led by Tarun Gogoi, had ordered a CID probe into the case, but the Gauhati High Court had later directed the CBI to inquire into the allegations.
(With inputs from agencies.)