Kolkata: Rajya Sabha member Kunal Ghosh was arrested in Kolkata on Saturday for investigation of his role as the chief executive officer of the media ventures of the now defunct Saradha Group, which ran aground in mid-April after it failed to repay depositors.

Sudipta Sen, chairman of the discredited deposit-taking group, has repeatedly alleged that entering the media business was his biggest mistake and that it led to the collapse of his entire group. Sen had launched newspapers and bought television channels.

He made that point first in a letter to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) shortly before he fled Kolkata only to be hauled back to the city by the police.

Confirming that Ghosh had been detained, Arnab Ghosh, a top detective, said that the police had evidence to prove Ghosh was “an equal partner with Sudipta Sen in the conspiracy", referring to the embezzlement of public deposits estimated at 1,800-2,000 crore by the state government.

Mint had reported in October that West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had given her clearance to detain Kunal Ghosh for the ongoing probe. Ghosh was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by her Trinamool Congress party but, at the end of September, he was suspended as a member for speaking out against it publicly.

Ghosh has denied having had any role in the Saradha Group’s deposit-taking business, saying that his job was restricted to overseeing the media outfits. Lately, he has even demanded a CBI inquiry into the operations of the Saradha Group.

Arnab Ghosh said Kunal Ghosh’s involvement went beyond the scope of his job as the editor of the Saradha Group’s newspapers and television channels.

Kunal Ghosh has repeatedly said that he was being made the scapegoat and that he would reveal how other Trinamool Congress leaders had taken advantage of the Saradha Group if he was arrested.

Speaking to television channels on Friday, he said state administration could shirk responsibility for the crisis that arose from the collapse of the deposit-taking group, adding that “nobody did anything" to tackle the menace despite being cautioned by various regulatory bodies.

“Who is going to believe what he (Kunal Ghosh) says?" asked a veteran Trinamool Congress leader and a legislator, asking not to be named. “He did everything for his own benefit," the Trinamool Congress legislator said, referring to Ghosh, whose personal moveable assets are stated to be worth 96 lakh on the Rajya Sabha website.

Kunal Ghosh, a high school drop out, who rose from being a freelance journalist attached to a small Bengali publication to the editor of Sambad Pratidin, a leading Bengali daily.

His job at the Saradha Group was initially an additional responsibility, which the Trinamool Congress-leaning management of Sambad Pratidin didn’t mind because the newspapers and television channels previously run by the Saradha Group toed the same political line.

Sambad Pratidin eventually severed ties with Ghosh and, for a few months till the Saradha Group collapsed, he only led its media ventures.

In political circles, he was known to be a deal maker being a confidante of Trinamool Congress chief Banerjee until he fell out of favour.

“The Saradha Group enjoyed the patronage of the local administration and the Trinamool Congress party in return for favours, and Kunal was the key guy who managed the relationship," said a state government official, who, too, did not want to be named.

To be sure, none of the deposit-taking companies could have been in business in West Bengal and the North-Eastern states unless the administration looked the other way, notwithstanding the lack of adequate legislation to control them.

Banerjee took her time: she didn’t immediately take Ghosh on, and waited till the panchayat (village council) and municipality polls were over in West Bengal. Ghosh was biding time. After he realized time was running out, he upped the ante, launching an offensive on the Trinamool Congress party “only to precipitate matters", according to the state government official cited above.

In his early days, he was close to the Congress party, but Ghosh managed to maintain close ties with Communist Party of India (Marxist), which ruled west West Bengal for 34 years till 2011. He lists in his own website the late Anil Biswas, a politburo member of the CPM, as one of the persons who had influenced him the most.

But as the editor of Sambad Pratidin, he was one of the most uncharitable critics of the Left rule in West Bengal.

The Left having been decimated in West Bengal, he leaned on one of his old Congress contacts, Somen Mitra, to launch an offensive on the Trinamool Congress. Addressing a small gathering at a blood donation camp in Kolkata in September, Ghosh threatened to reveal names if he was arrested. Mitra, a former Congress stalwart in the state, had organized it.

“The choice was obvious," said the Trinamool Congress leader cited above. “We still don’t know whether we are going to patch up with the Congress (ahead of the 2014 general election). But our leader is in no mood to reconcile with Kunal."

Following his suspension from the Trinamool Congress party, Ghosh wrote a letter to Banerjee, pledging his full support and allegiance to her, but it appears to have cut no ice.

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