The West Bengal assembly elections spiced up after a video surfaced to show about a dozen politicians of the ruling party accepting bribe.
By its scale, the sting is unmatched. It shows almost every prominent Trinamool leader, barring CM Mamata Banerjee, taking cash from unknown people. While former sports minister Madan Mitra was almost lying on his back when cash was piled near him, urban development minister Firhad Hakim was reclining like a patronising zamindar.
Heightened political and media activity till the elections is almost guaranteed. Further revelation, naradaranews.com claims to have 52 hours of footage, is likely.
But will it affect the prospects of the ruling party? Before attempting a direct reply, it is prudent to go back a few years. The Saradha scam exploded in April 2013, ruining the fate of almost 1.8 million depositors. Dozens of depositors and agents committed suicide after losing their life’s savings. Most of them turned against the leaders of the Trinamool, some of whom were seen hobnobbing with Saradha chairman Sudipta Sen.
The panchayat polls followed in a few months. Contrary to predictions, Trinamool romped home, consolidating victory in the 2011 assembly polls. To the electorate the taint didn’t seem to matter in the rural polls. Banerjee’s party came to control 13 of the 16 zila parishads.
In 2014 came the bigger match: the Lok Sabha polls. The Narendra Modi wave engulfed the country but stopped at Bengal’s borders. BJP campaigned aggressively on the Saradha lines but could manage only two Lok Sabha seats out of 42.
The last proof of political immunity for the Trinamool came in the second half of 2014 during the civic polls. The party swept the polls. By that time the electorate had seen the CBI investigation and had enough evidence to be convinced that some ruling party leaders had quite a few fingers in the Saradha pie.
If Saradha was a benchmark, it is most likely that Narada, despite the rhyme, will remain a far less potent weapon of electoral damage for the Trinamool. If there was a strong opposition, the quality of political activity would have been different in Kolkata on Monday. On paper, the Left and Congress along with the sting may seem to be a powerful combination to deliver a hard knock to Banerjee’s party. If one listens to Trinamool whispers, there may be fears that it may have some marginal effect.