In what could cause further embarrassment for the Trinamool Congress, Narada News on Monday published a new set of videos of its sting operation in which two prominent leaders of West Bengal’s ruling party were purportedly caught on tape -- one of them accepting money, and the other seeking a “benami” stake in a project.
The Trinamool rejected the allegations, terming it a “dirty political vendetta”.
In the latest videos, the website claimed Trinamool Lok Sabha member from Arambagh Aparupa Poddar accepted money, while former party state general secretary Shanku Deb Panda sought a “benami stake” in the fictitious company in return for his help.
While Poddar rubbished the charges, Panda couldn’t be reached for comment.
The news portal, which claims to have 52 hours of footage of the operation, on March 14 had uploaded a 24-minute video, in which as many as 11 Trinamool leaders were shown accepting bundles of cash in return for favours to a fictitious company Impex Consultancy.
In the garb of the firm, the portal claimed to have approached several ministers and Trinamool leaders seeking favours.
The authenticity of the videos could not be ascertained by IANS.
“I want a stake in the subject... I will tell the name in whose name the stake has to be,” Panda is seen saying in the video on the site naradanews.com.
Incidentally, journalist-turned-politician Panda had carried out a sting operation in 2008 in which then CPI legislator from Nandigram Muhammad Illyas was seen accepting money. Illyas was forced to resign after the footage was aired by news channels.
Panda has also been in the news for his grilling by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the multi-crore-rupee Saradha scam.
The Trinamool rejected the allegations.
“This is nothing but dirty political vendetta. This is cheap politics of black money and blackmailing,” Trinamool’s chief spokesperson Derek O’Brien said on Monday.
Earlier, questioning the credibility of those behind the sting, Rajya Sabha member O’Brien, while raising the issue in the house, had alleged use of foreign money and even claimed that the company had made five telephone calls to Dubai on the day that the “so-called” sting operation video was released.
Taking umbrage to O’Brien’s assertions earlier in the month, Mathew Samuel -- the man behind the sting -- said he will write to the Rajya Sabha chairman seeking to know how the Trinamool member got details of his call data.
“My office is in Dubai, I called people there. But how the MP got my call data? This means they are tapping my phone. They have intruded my privacy. I am planning to write a letter to the Rajya Sabha chairman,” said Samuel, who has repeatedly asserted that the money used in the sting was “crowd funded”.
He said the latest videos were released on the day as they were “missed” from being included in the first video during editing.
Talking to a news channel in Delhi, Samuel also said Trinamool general secretary Subrata Bakshi and Lok Sabha member and former railways minister Dinesh Trivedi “did not entertain” him. Trivedi did not even meet him.
He also said raw footage of the sting will be handed over to the Calcutta High Court before which three public interest litigations have been filed seeking a CBI probe.
The petitions have been filed separately by Congress and BJP leaders as also an advocate and are expected to come up for hearing on Tuesday.
Calling the sting a conspiracy to malign her, Poddar said she will resign if the footage was found to be authentic.
“I am giving an ultimatum to the central government, let there be a probe on my footage, my personal footage. If there is basis, I will resign within a week,” said Poddar.
However, she said that during polls, donations are given for various purposes.
“For an electoral fight, donation is given in a free and fair way. I think this is the case.”
The opposition parties lost no time slamming the Trinamool.
Communist Party of India-Marxist state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra demanded that the Election Commission probe the matter immediately. “The commission has this power. If need be, the commission can put off the polls also.”
State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury trained his guns on chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
“Does this government have the determination to take action against them? Mamata Banerjee talks of transparency and honesty only in words.
“In practice, Mamata Banerjee has always compromised with corruption, and given indulgence to graft,” he said.