Bad Weather

Of late things are going not so well for Mamata Banerjee and her government in Bengal. After the assembly polls, she managed to recruit some MLAs from the Congress and even one from the CPI(M), whose standard defence for their somersault was that it would not be possible to do any development work without joining the ruling party; these MLAs however did not show the courage to face re-election. Ratting in politics is ostensibly a profitable business. This is a glaring fact as far as the Indian parliamentary system is concerned.

The complacence of Ms Banerjee has however been badly shaken. One is the movement in Bhangar, a region of the district of south-24 Parganas, against forcible encroachment on people's rights for setting up power grids. There the hegemony of Mamata Banerjee's 'strongmen' has suffered a severe setback from which they are unlikely to recover. So the West Bengal government is all out to crush the movement with the help of the police and musclemen. The active passivity of the CID regarding the firing that killed two protesters has led the Calcutta High Court to take a serious view. The final outcome remains to be seen, although the people of the affected areas are still united in their resolve. Despite police terror, they still say 'No' to Power Grid.

Now has come the High Court order directing CBI to take up the investigation of the Narada scam that surfaced before the West Bengal assembly polls of 1916. It may be remembered that the matter was referred to the parliament's ethics committee headed by L K Advani, but intriguingly enough, the committee just sat idle, not holding even a single meeting so far to discuses the issue, although one year has elapsed since the decision of a paliamentary probe was taken. Trinamul Congress functionaries tried to explain away the scandal by saying that the money taken by powerful TMC functionaries and an IPS officer was simply donation for the party. After the High Court verdict, Mamata Banerjee too has repeated the same assertion, conveniently forgetting that such political donations must have some written records. Besides, the respondents include an IPS officer. How can an IPS officer accept donations on behalf of a political party? Mamata Banerjee has also referred to the billions of rupees spent in the campaign of the UP assembly polls and asked for disclosure of the sources of the money. But what happened in UP cannot be equated with the Bengal scenario.

The people are familiar with the age-old time-tested loyalty of the police to the respective political party(ies) in power. Hence it is not a matter of regret or surprise that the division bench of the High Court, which has ordered the CBI probe has not failed to note this behaviour of the police. "The state police are at best, unfortunately, puppets on a string, the end of which is with the respondents. Therefore it is of utmost importance that the preliminary inquiry should be conducted by a neutral and independent investigating agency". Senior police officers of Kolkata and for that matter West Bengal, may keep this certificate as a memento. Of course it is true that how seriously and honestly the CBI will behave depends inter alia upon many factors including the changing political equations among power-hungry poitical leaders. The state government went to the apex court against this verdict while failing to have any relief in its favour. On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has formed the cabinet in Manipur allegedly with the 'support' one TMC MLA.This incident, coupled with the conscious passivity of the parliamentary ethics committee, casts serious doubts about the future of the CBI investigation.

One may recall an earlier instance, that of a sting operation of 2001 regarding some purchases of defence equipments. After the revelations, Mamata Banerjee resinged from the central cabinet and broke away from the NDA in protest against this scandal. George Fernandes, the then defence minister, had to resign and Bangaru Laxman, the then president of the BJP, was adjudged guilty of taking bribes regarding the supply of these equipments. Political analysts may find it worthwhile to speculate on this complete change on the part of a politician once considered by many as the 'symbol of probity'.

Vol. 49, No.39, April 2 - 8, 2017