Caged or not, it’s definitely the alleged parrot that is feared most by Indian politicians, especially of the regional variety.
West Bengal chief minister and TMC president Mamata Banerjee with actress Raima Sen, Ria sen and Indranil Sen (PTI Photo)
So much so that even Trinamool Congress boss Mamata Banerjee, who has carefully built the image of a fearless mass leader, looks and sounds jittery these days while trying to present a brave front.
The reason is neither too complex, nor too nuanced to follow. The Supreme Court’s recent move, ordering the CBI to probe the Rs. 20,000-crore Saradha Ponzi scam and 17 such other companies is seen by Banerjee as a pressure tactic to force her to support whoever comes to power in Delhi.
Deepak Ghosh, a former bureaucrat and one-time close aid of the TMC chief, said, “Now, Mamata has to have a foothold in the new government at the Centre. Now, she may even have to beg Narendra Modi — assuming he forms the government — to keep the CBI at a safe distance.”
Earlier, the CBI probe threat seemed to have used against BSP chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav — apparently to tame them whenever they tried to distance themselves from the ruling parties at the Centre.
Yadav faced the CBI whenever he tried to steer clear of the ruling party at the Centre. In 2007, the Supreme Court asked the CBI to start probing the assets of Yadav, then UP CM, and his family members.
The CBI reportedly charged Yadav and his family with having assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. Later, when Mulayam extended support to the UPA, the case was withdrawn.
The case of Mayawati is even more curious. The CBI began probe against then UP CM Mayawati in 2002-2003 — of course, on the top court orders — in the Taj Heritage Corridor scam. Mayawati accused the NDA of setting the CBI after her after she decided to withdraw her support.
Interestingly, with the Taj case hanging in balance, the CBI managed to nail Mayawati in a DA case — without the state government or the top court’s permission — when she withdrew support to the UPA in 2008. In 2014, the CBI, however, told the court that it didn’t have enough evidence to pursue the case.
The strategy in Banerjee’s case could be similar: Break the horse before saddling it. The obvious attraction is the TMC’s huge vote-base and its target of bagging 30 seats this time.
Although all these are just hypotheses, Banerjee is getting squeakier every day as her main USP, arguably the cleanest image among the mainstream politicians, is at stake.