KOLKATA: With only a month to go for Assembly polls in West Bengal, a sting operation by Narada News, presented to the media by the news website in New Delhi on Monday, purportedly showed the state’s ministers and other elected TMC members accepting cash of about `5 lakh each for favours to a fictitious import-export company ‘Impex Consultancy’. A journalist from the portal presented himself as a representative of the company seeking their help. The clips appear to show Ministers Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Kolkata's Mayor & MLA Sovan Chatterjee, Deputy Mayor & MLA Iqbal Ahmed, and several TMC MPs, apart from former SP of Burdwan S M H Meerza, accepting cash. The website claimed it had been conducting the sting since 2014 and had 52 hours of footage.
In Kolkata, the BJP demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while CPI(M) wanted polls postponed and President's rule imposed. BJP national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh said, “We demand that Mamata Banerjee resign immediately. This video clip proves her ministers and leaders are involved in corruption”. Singh said the BJP was writing to the CBI, asking its director to investigate the sting as the agency was probing ponzi scams. They are to also submit the footage to the Election Commission.
He said, “We demand that the EC debar those persons shown in this video from contesting the polls. The mayor said the cash would go straight to the CM. The TMC has to answer how they looted Bengal for five years. The prince of TMC and MP Abhisekh Banerjee's office was also used to collect cash.” Abhisekh is the CM’s nephew.
LoP in the Assembly and CPI(M) state secretary Surjyakanta Mishra said, “We want the EC to investigate, as the funds collected illegally will be used in polls. Let the electoral process be postponed and if need be President's rule imposed. Thousands of crores have been looted this way by TMC.”
Congress state president and MP Adhir Chowdhury alleged, “It’s now proved that TMC is a party of thieves and looters. Mamata has to admit that she and her leaders have looted Bengal’s people. The so-called symbol of honesty has been exposed. The cat is now out of the bag.” The TMC rubbished the sting. Its spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O'Brien said, “There is no sting in the video. It’s a canard against us, and the people of Bengal trust Mamata Banerjee’s transparency; on May 19 it will be proved and we’ll come to power again. Don’t play dirty politics. If our opponents have the courage, let them combat us politically.” Most of the TMC leaders in the video refused to comment, while some called it a doctored video and questioned the timing of its release.