A day after a sting video showed 11 Trinamool Congress leaders allegedly accepting money, the party on Tuesday gave a clean chit to all of them and said it does not even need to seek their explanation.
The party stuck to its stand that this is a case of political conspiracy and gave a notice under Rule 267 in Rajya Sabha for a discussion on “foreign money” being used to queer the pitch ahead of the elections.
According to sources, a sharp division has emerged between the MPs who purportedly featured in the sting videos and the others over how to handle the controversy. During a meeting at TMC’s Parliament office on Tuesday, a section of MPs is learnt to have suggested that the party should demand, or itself order, a probe. The video, released on Monday, claims that almost the entire TMC front rung in Parliament purportedly accepted bribes from a fictitious company. The party is now looking at the issue as one involving an insider, sources said.
The Indian Express had on Monday reported that Mathew Samuel, the journalist who shot the sting video, was employed with Tehelka during much of the period over which it was made. The magazine is owned by a company in which Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP K D Singh is a major shareholder.
Indicating that Rs 65 lakh allegedly given to TMC leaders in the sting came from a group of NRIs, as Samuel had told The Indian Express, TMC chief national spokesman Derek O’Brien said, “We have given a notice for discussion under Rule 267. This is a first when foreign funds are being used before elections to influence Indian elections. There is money coming in from abroad. We are a transparent party and we want to find out the truth about who funded this company, when it was incorporated, and how they are trying to distort the election process.”
“Our opponents have timed this correctly,” O’Brien said, reading out from the Narada News press release urging Bengal voters to bring in change “like five years ago” to buttress his point about a political conspiracy.
Specifying that the party will not ask any of the leaders featured in the purported sting for their side of the story, O’Brien said, “There is nothing to ask. We are busy with elections — the first phase is just 19 days away. This is not the time to give in to any attempt to disrupt the campaign. We will not digress from the agenda of development.”
While the party asked its MPs to stay away from the media, many, especially the lateral entrants, have in private conversations used words such as “shameful” and “embarrassing”.
At the MPs’ meet today, MP Sugata Bose is learnt to have been among those vocal about the image the the sting has left the party with. Sources said MP and TMC vice president Dinesh Trivedi was of the view that the party should get its name cleared. O’Brien refused to comment but sources said the party is of the firm opinion that there was an insider hand in planning the sting.