TMC leaders ‘stung’ again: Fresh Narada tapes released

Young MP Aparupa Poddar, former gen secy Shankudeb Panda named; party dismisses tapes, Oppn sharpens attack.

Written by Arshad Ali | Kolkata | Updated: April 9, 2016 1:21:12 am
A BJP press conference on the sting row, in Kolkata on Tuesday. (Express PHoto: Partha Paul) A BJP press conference on the sting row, in Kolkata on Tuesday. (Express PHoto: Partha Paul)

News portal Narada News Monday released two more video clips, showing Trinamool Congress MP from Arambagh Aparupa Poddar purportedly accepting money and former TMC state general secretary Shankudeb Panda allegedly asking for a stake in an upcoming company which the reporters posed as representing.

The Indian Express could not ascertain the authenticity of the video clips.

Poddar did not directly deny taking money, and only questioned the “context” in which “the money was taken”.

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While the Opposition parties in West Bengal slammed the TMC, with the BJP demanding Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s resignation, the ruling party has dismissed the video clips as “dirty political vendetta”.

This is the second instalment of “sting tapes” released by Narada News, exactly a week after the first tranche of tapes allegedly showed TMC MPs, state ministers, MLAs and senior leaders accepting cash in return for favours such as lobbying for a company.

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In one of the fresh clips, Panda purportedly says that he does not have any business, and needs something like this to step up in the political hierarchy. “This is my business,” he allegedly says, and that the benefits would be transferred in the name of a different person. “I will tell you (how); I have people,” he allegedly says.

In the second video, Poddar, the party’s youngest MP, is shown as allegedly accepting money from the reporter, who posed as a businessman looking to float a company. In the video, she allegedly accepts the money and also makes a phone call, asking for her “black purse”.

Panda had himself conducted a sting operation in 2007 on Mohammed Illyas, the CPM legislator from Nandigram, who was seen as allegedly accepting money. Illyas had later resigned.

Panda had been removed from his post in December 2015 after being summoned by the CBI for alleged involvement in the Saradha scam.

While Panda was not available for a comment, Poddar demanded an inquiry into the matter. “I don’t remember in which context the money was taken, but if it was taken during the election it could be donation which normally people give (during the campaign period),” she said. “I will ask the central government to conduct an inquiry into it within seven days. If I am proven guilty, I will immediately resign.”

The BJP screened the video at a press conference in the evening, after which senior party leader Jayprakash Mazumder demanded Mamata Banerjee’s resignation. “We challenge Banerjee, who claims to be the symbol of honesty, to initiate a probe into this and prove the videos fake. We will also urge the EC to remove all TMC leaders seen in the videos from the election process,” he said.

State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury reiterated the TMC was a party of “Alibaba and 40 thieves”, and said more names will come out in future. CPM leader Rabin Deb also said this was inevitable. “The truth has come out,” he said. “Panda…was one of the collection agents of the party, (while) Poddar’s nomination in Lok Sabha election itself was controversial.”

Asked why these two tapes were released separately, Narada News CEO Mathew Samuel said they had missed these two while editing the tapes.

TMC spokesperson Derek O’Brien issued a statement, “This is nothing but dirty political vendetta… Trinamool is not afraid.”