NEW DELHI: The Trinamool Congress, hit by a sting operation that showed its ministers, MPs and MLAs accepting cash in return for official favours, found itself in further trouble on Tuesday with the Congress, CPM and BJP members cornering it in the Lok Sabha and demanding a parliamentary probe.
The sting operation footage was released by a private news portal on Monday, even as the campaign for the State Assembly elections picked up momentum in West Bengal where the ruling TMC is seeking to retain power and keep the main opposition CPM and a resurgent BJP at bay. The sting brought the CPM, BJP and even the Congress together in the Lok Sabha as their MPs sparred with the TMC members and demanded criminal action, including registration of cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, and setting up of a special parliamentary panel to probe bribery charges against the TMC MPs. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu significantly said, “The prestige of Parliament is at stake. We have to establish the truth. Simply saying it is a conspiracy is not enough and will not satisfy the public.”
There is a precedent of 11 MPs losing their membership, some years ago, after they were caught on camera accepting bribes, which was then called the ‘cash for queries’ sting operation. The TMC MPs, who have been maintaining a belligerent stance against the government on various issues, were caught on the wrong foot, even though they maintained it was a conspiracy to defame them ahead of the polls.
Heated exchanges were witnessed between TMC and Left members after CPM MP Mohd Salim raised the issue during the Zero Hour and soon BJP’s S S Ahluwalia and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Congress) too slammed the TMC and sought a probe. “We are ashamed that we are sitting with such people. They should drown in shame. The dignity of Parliament has been compromised by their conduct,” Mohd Salim said and demanded that a committee be formed to probe the charges.
Initially, TMC MPs sat in silence but traded charges when Saugata Roy tried to present his side. Roy wondered under what rule Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had allowed members to raise the issue and said in anguish, “I had to live to see this day... It (sting) is part of a political conspiracy before the West Bengal elections where CPI-M, Congress and BJP are destined to lose.”
Ahluwalia said, “It is an embarrassment for our Parliament and democratic system. Five MPs have been shown accepting money. The matter must be referred to the ethics committee.”