KOLKATA: The Bengal government is preparing itself for a long legal battle to avoid Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the Narada News sting video scandal that surfaced in March last year and accused several leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress of accepting bribe.
Though the expose did not affect the Trinamool Congress in the crucial Assembly polls that followed, the Narada tapes became talk of the town and the Opposition parties used the issue to target Mamata Banerjee and her leaders.
Senior government officials said the state law and judicial services department has been advised to prepare a list of high-profile legal brains of the country who can be hired to drag the matter to the level of the Supreme Court in case the Calcutta High Court, which is hearing a case in this matter, orders a CBI investigation.
Repeated attempts by HT to contact the state law & judicial services minister, Maloy Ghatak, failed. Neither did he take phone calls nor respond to a text message sent to his mobile number. Officials in his department however confirmed that they have been asked to prepare a battle plan and also work out an estimated cost that the government might have to bear in order to drag the case as far as possible.
Among those shown in the videos are Saugata Roy, Trinamool MP; Subhendu Adhikari, state transport minister; Subrata Mukherjee, state panchayat ministe; Sovan Chatterjee, Kolkata mayor and state fire services minister; Firhad (Bobby) Hakim, state urban development and municipal affairs minister and Madan Mitra, erstwhile state sports and transport minister.
A senior Trinamool leader admitted in private that the government would take every measure and try all options to prevent the CBI from taking up the investigation.
“This case is more sensitive than the chit fund scam. In the latter, initially there was lot of confusion and speculation over involvement and identity of influential people. But in the Narada investigation, there are videos that show so many faces. The BJP will surely try to exploit this. So, the government will naturally try to drag the legal battle as far as possible,” said the Trinamool leader.
To stop the CBI from taking over the chit fund investigation, the state government spent around Rs 10 crore on high profile lawyers such as Kapil Sibal who is also a senior Congress leader. In fact, Congress leaders in Bengal had criticised Sibal at that time for defending the Mamata Banerjee government before the Apex court.
“If the Calcutta High Court orders a CBI enquiry into the Narada scam the government is likely to approach Sibal again. We will appeal to him to refuse the case,” said a state Congress leader.