A political hot potato for Mamata Banerjee before the 2016 Assembly elections, the Narada scam returned as a shot in the arm for opposition parties in Bengal on Friday when the Calcutta high court ordered a CBI inquiry into the findings of the sting operation.
Although CPI-M and Left Front allies took out a mammoth procession in the afternoon without wasting time, leaders of several opposition parties felt that the BJP would try to make the most out of the crisis Trinamool Congress was staring at.
“If the chief minister at all feels accountable to the electorate she should arrest all scam-tainted leaders and ministers in her party before the CBI does so. Politically, the BJP will benefit the most from this investigation,” said Rahul Sinha, BJP national secretary and former state president.
The chief minister appeared to have anticipated that the BJP would up the ante in view of the election results in five states. While reacting to the court order, she made her first political move.
“Our party will move the Supreme Court. The judgement was most unfortunate. How could the state president of a political party predict that the court would order a CBI investigation once the UP elections were over?” she asked while addressing the media at the state secretariat.
“The judges were asking right from the beginning why a CBI probe should not be ordered. If a judgement is leaked before it is passed, it is unfair,” said Banerjee. She was referring to BJP state president Dilip Ghosh’s recent remark when he predicted that a CBI probe into the Narada scam was imminent.
“This is a grand conspiracy. The footage was also released from the BJP office,” she reiterated. State BJP leaders reacted by saying they might file a contempt petition against the chief minister for making such remarks on a high court order.
Though Congress was the first party to move court on the Narada scam, Bengal PCC chief and MP, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, somehow seemed convinced that the BJP would now claim its pound of flesh.
“Virtually the entire Trinamool leadership may land in jail soon,” Chowdhury told HT. He ruled out any possibility of the investigation going slow - as feared by the Left- given the BJP’s dependence on Trinamool Congress to save its newly-formed government in Manipur.
“The BJP is a master is horse trading. It is Mamata Banerjee who should feel scared. There may come a time when her party leaders will start flocking to the BJP to save their skin,” said Chowdhury.
Political observers however pointed out that no matter how hard the state BJP might try to corner Trinamol Congress, the Left and Congress would work out their own strategy to regain lost ground.
CPI(M) state secretary Suryakanta Mishra and Politburo member and MP, Md Salim both alleged that the BJP and Trinamool were allies and hence, the CBI probe meant little. “How does one explain why the Parliament’s Ethics Committee headed by L K Advani didn’t meet even once over the past one year? Since some of the accused are MPs, the matter was referred to the committee long ago,” said Salim.
“The partnership was evident in Manipur where the BJP formed the government with support of the sole Trinamool MLA. Had the Centre been serious about Naradha, Saradha, Rose Valley and other scams, they would have taken steps long ago,” alleged Mishra.
“The chief minister is not above suspicion. Why wasn’t any action against S M H Mirza, the IPS officer seen accepting money in the Narada tapes? The chief minister has argued that political parties accept donation to contest elections. Question is, do IPS officers accept those donations on behalf of politicians?” said Mishra.