Political response to a legal battle


A political offensive is no substitute for a legal defence. With senior members of her party under pressure from the Central Bureau of Investigation on charges of involvement in the Saradha Ponzi scheme scam, Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is trying to portray the entire issue as a conspiracy by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the government it heads at the Centre. Following the arrest of State Transport Minister Madan Mitra, Ms. Banerjee must have known it would not be enough to merely play the innocent victim; but she seems to have gone too far in trying to discredit the whole investigation and attribute motives to the CBI. Unlike what Ms. Banerjee would like others to believe, Mr. Mitra was not arrested for sharing a dais with Saradha Group chairman Sudipto Sen. The charges against him are serious, and involve misappropriation of funds collected from subscribers to the scheme. These are not based merely on some photographs that show Mr. Mitra and Mr. Sen together. To argue, as Ms. Banerjee did, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi too should be arrested on the basis of photographs showing him alongside Sahara India chairman Subrato Roy, who is now in jail for failing to refund depositors, is to make nothing more than a petty political point. If Trinamool leaders are to get out of the legal troubles they are in because of the Saradha scam, they will need to do much more than engage in political counter-attacks. Even as political tactics, making noise in Parliament, and organising protests in Bengal will not take the Trinamool very far if its leaders do not face the allegations head-on and are not cleared after due investigation.

That the Chief Minister chose to back her arrested colleague almost reflexively, is certainly problematic. Mr. Mitra might indeed be a valued Minister and party colleague, but the proper course for her would have been to wait till the courts cleared him of all charges before pronouncing him innocent and rushing to his side in support. True, Ms. Banerjee is entitled to give Mr. Mitra the benefit of the doubt till he is proven guilty, but debunking the entire investigation without sufficient cause is no way to show solidarity with a colleague in trouble. The BJP, which is witnessing rapid growth in West Bengal, is sure to make political capital out of the Saradha scam, but Ms. Banerjee should not mix her political battles with the legal woes. Mr. Mitra will have to mount a legal defence, and not rely on the Trinamool winning its political battle with the BJP. Ms. Banerjee is free to say that the arrest is illegal and unconstitutional, but this is more in the nature of pointless political rhetoric than a serious legal challenge.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 5:40:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-political-response-to-a-legal-battle/article6691223.ece

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