The Election Commission has agreed to look into the sting operation done by Narada News which showed 12 Trinamool Congress leaders allegedly accepting bribes. The EC will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the validity and authenticity of the tapes that were filmed in 2014 and revealed only now.
Commenting on the development, Biplab Halim, West Bengal coordinator for the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), which has been working to bring reforms in several administrative and democratic structures, said the use of black money in elections needs to be strictly dealt with by the EC. “The Narada sting done during the 2014 general elections again brings to light how political leaders have been using black money in elections. If the leaders, who were seen taking money in the tape, are found guilty, they should be booked and debarred from contesting elections.” Halim believes that the political parties should come under the ambit of RTI (Right to Information) so as to maintain accountability and transparency of their accounts. According to him, out of the Rs 35,000 crore spent by political parties during the 2014 general elections, 75% of the money came from unknown sources.
The opposition in West Bengal has taken a tough stand against TMC in the wake of the alleged bribery involving its leaders. CPM MP Md Salim has accused the TMC of using black money during elections to fund candidates. While speaking to The Sunday Guardian, he alleged, “It’s not only during elections, the TMC likes to take money at all times. They have become any time money organisation. The EC should take strictest action against the corrupt leaders and check the trail and whereabouts of this black money that has been shown in the video. The state government should also investigate this matter.” Many TMC sympathisers have questioned the timing of the releasing the sting video. A TMC voter, who did not wish to be named, asked, “If this organisation had the tapes since 2014, why were they sitting over it for two years? Where they busy doctoring this tape during this time?”
The BJP has also asked Narada News if anybody pressurised them to keep quiet for two years. Krishanu Mitra, spokesperson of the BJP, West Bengal unit, said, “We are demanding a CBI inquiry into this. All candidates seen in the tape should be debarred from contesting and campaigning in the election.”
“We are hoping that the EC would come out with the result of their investigation before the elections are over, so that the people of Bengal get to know how corrupt the TMC is,” Mitra further said.
On 14 March, the Narada News in its video titled “X-Files” released a 24-minute long video that showed 12 top TMC leaders, including its vice president Mukul Roy and senior leaders like Saugata Roy, Madan Mitra, Subrata Bakshi, Sultan Ahmed, Sovan Chaterjee, allegedly accepting cash amounting to Rs 5 lakh-Rs 20 lakh from a person to favour a “fictitious” company “Impex Consultancy”. However, the TMC said the tapes were “manufactured” and “doctored”. It alleged there was a “political conspiracy” by the opposition to damage the reputation of Mukul Roy. The TMC is planning to take legal action against the news portal.