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The Sting Operation by the Narada News has shown altogether 14 Trinamul Congress (TMC) functionaries, including some leaders and MPs and an IPS officer as well, accepting bribes in return for favours to a fictitious company called Impex Consultancy. The TMC leaders have called the video tape a fake one, but at the same time have evinced a sharp unwillingness to demand or order a serious investigation. This has naturally strengthened the notion that bribes were actually taken by the TMC leaders and the memories of the old sting operation made by Tahelka, which led Ms Mamata Bancrjee to resign from the NDA cabinet in protest, put Bangaru Laxman into the prison and finally compelled Mr George Fernandes, the then defence minister, to quit office, have been revived. A TMC MP, immediately after the revelation attacked the Narada News in the Rajay Sabha of hatching a conspiracy against the TMC with the help of money coming from Dubai. He referred to the call records of Mathew Samuels, who conducted the sting, in order to prove his point. How he got access to these call records is another question. Common sense, however, suggests that what is relevant is not the source of money but whether the money was actually accepted by the TMC leaders. What has further complicated the matter is the argument put forward by the TMC leaders' counsel, himself a TMC MP, at the Calcutta High Court. He has asked for a postponement of the hearings till the coming assembly polls are over, arguing that an earlier hearing would benefit the Opposition. A more glaring revelation of a guilty conscience is difficult to conceive of, because if the TMC leaders are really innocent, they should ask for an immediate inquiry and free themselves from all the charges with honour. The second and more amusing part of the argument is that bribes and donations do not mean the same thing. Put in plain language, the counsel of the accused fellows wanted to argue that money had been taken, but as donations. This does not sound at all credible, because donations are taken publicly and receipts are given for any amount of donations. This 'donation' theory directly contradicts the assertion that the video cassette used by the 'Narada News' was a forged one. It is also comical to see an IPS officer taking donations on behalf of the ruling party in West Bengal. The mention of 'donation' only implies that money was taken by the TMC leaders and functionaries.

It is clear that Mamata Banerjee, who has been parading a conspiracy theory, and her lieutenants are in a state of bewilderment, and hence are making repeated self-contradictory remarks. The Saradah scam, the TET (Teachers' Eligibility Test) scandal, the present 'Narada News' affair—all these have a cumulative significance, the result of which must be manifest sooner of later. She and her apologists have however constantly raising the slogan of 'development' as their only mission, and repeating ad nausea the allegation that the opposition parties are bent on destroying this process of development. It is manifest that one vital aspect of this 'development' is the material betterment of Trinamul Congress leaders and activists.

Mamata Banerjee may temporarily overcome the crisis in the assembly polls owing to the superior organisational power of her party, formed inter alia by lavish donations to clubs, the pitiable and disorganised state of the opposition—largely a legacy of its infamous past—and the lack of a strong mass movement. But these scandals will not cease to haunt her. In fact they are likely to come up with greater force in the coming future. Her image, sadly enough, has been fast undergoing a transformation, from a symbol of honesty and probity into an embodiment of corruption. This metamorphosis has, ironically, taken place within a period of less than five years.  
24.3.2016

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 39, Apr 3 - 9, 2016