Kolkata: The Narada sting operation failed to cut much ice with the West Bengal electorate as five of the six Trinamool Congress nominees caught in the alleged bribery scandal have emerged victorious in the assembly polls.
The only “stung” candidate to lose was Madan Mitra, the first former state minister to contest the polls from behind the bars.
Jailed in the multi-crore rupee Saradha chit fund scam, the former sports and transport minister failed to retain Kamarhati, losing out to Manash Mukherjee of the Communist party of India-Marxist.
Arrested by the CBI in December 2014, Mitra is one of the most high-profile casualties for the Trinamool Congress which headed towards a landslide victory.
Much like the multi-crore rupee Saradha scam in which several of the Trinamool leaders were arrested and interrogated, the Narada sting too failed to impact Trinamool’s electoral fortunes.
Five of the legislators caught in the sting — Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram, Frihad Hakim from Kolkata Port, Subrata Mukherjee from Ballygunge, Sovan Chatterjee from Behala East, and Iqbal Ahmed from Khanakul — retained their seats.
Carried out by the portal — Narada News — the sting caught on camera over a dozen Trinamool leaders, including former union ministers, state cabinet heavyweights and MPs, accepting wads of currency notes as “bribes” in return for showing favours to a fictitious company.
Made public on March 14, barely weeks ahead of the start of the staggered polls, the sting became a major platform for the opposition to launch a massive attack against the Trinamool with corruption emerging as the central issue.
In the past couple of years, several of the ruling party leaders have been arrested and interrogated in the multi-crore-rupee Saradha chit find scam.
Be it Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharaiya Janata Party president Amit Shah or Congress president Sonia Gandhi and CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra, star campaigners from the opposition camp repeatedly attacked the Trinamool over its journey from “Saradha to Narada”.
While Adhikari defeated his nearest rival, CPI-M’s Abdul Kabir Sekh Hakim, the urban development minister triumphed over the Left Front-backed Congress nominee Rakesh Singh.
Chatterjee, also the city mayor, defeated independent candidate Ambikesh Mahapatra.
Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee emerged victorious from Ballygunge, defeating his nearest rival Krishna Debnath of the Congress.
Iqbal Ahmed, described in the sting as the “go to man”, defeated CPI-M’s Islam Ali Khan to retain Kahankul which he had won in 2011 by over 27,000 votes.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed there was no corruption in her state.
“No corruption is there, in Bengal, I’m proud to say. You will see that Bengal is a corruption less state. If you compare Bengal to any other state, you will see how they spend the money for election also.”
Queried on the purported Narada sting operation, she said, “This was a lie.”
“The people have proved that by giving the mandate. The issue of corruption that was raised during the election was based on lies. At the time of election, it was deliberately done. People have rejected it. Those who had raised the issue should now apologise.