Finally, Mamata breaks silence on Narada sting

Finally, Mamata breaks silence on Narada sting

U-turn: Didi says she would've changed candidates if she knew about the allegation before polls

Finally, Mamata breaks silence on Narada sting

In her first reference to controversial video of top TMC leaders receiving illegal cash, party chief Mamata Banerjee opened the floodgates to a fresh round of negative campaign by Opposition parties.

Mamata’s comment at a campaign rally that she would have considered not giving tickets to the tainted leaders comes barely three days before the first round of polling in Kolkata.

Mamata, who had maintained silence over the “sting operation” by two Delhi-based journalists, said on late Sunday evening at a public meeting in north Kolkata that if she had prior information, she could have changed the candidates. “If I knew about this earlier, I certainly would have given a thought. But what can I do after the candidates’ list has declared? I can’t possibly change the candidates,” she said, at the meeting in Bowbazar, while campaigning for party candidate, Noyna Bandopadhyay.

Banerjee, however, questioned the timing of the video’s release. “Why did an illegal company, which does not exist, release a video shot in 2014 right after the 2016 election dates were announced and list of candidates declared?” she asked. The video footage surfaced in March after the BJP state leadership released it in a press conference at Kolkata. An official tweet from Trinamool had called the video “doctored” and found a “political conspiracy” behind its release, a view that has been reiterated by most senior party leaders, including those singed by the footage.

In what seemed like a face-saving exercise, Mamata said that her party will run a probe on the so-called sting operation, claiming that some interest groups from Dubai had funded the video to scuttle her chances in the polls. Lashing out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pre-poll promise of bringing back black money stashed in foreign banks, she said, “Where is the promise of bringing the black money? Now you are using black money to do the Narada. Don’t you have any shame?” “If anybody from my party is found to be involved, we’ll definitely take action,” she assured, urging voters not to put credence in the footage.

Mamata also lashed out at a section of the media for hyping up a “lie”. “Some people are repeatedly imposing these lies on you. Don’t believe it,” she told voters. While Mamata’s comments have put the accused leaders in an uncomfortable position, they preferred to keep from commenting. State ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, both candidates in the ongoing polls, refused to comment. Mayor Sovan Chatterjee, also a party candidate, said, “I’m not aware of what she said so I can’t comment. If need be, I’ll give my statement before the internal probe committee.”

Mamata’s statement put the Opposition parties on an overdrive, with particularly the BJP launching a campaign blitzkrieg on social media, claiming that the Trinamool chief has admitted to the footage’s authenticity. “CM trying to disown her tainted party leaders to save her own skin in Narada. It’s too late for you and them to escape, Madam!” tweeted CPM state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra on late Sunday evening.

State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury told a local news channel on Monday that Mamata “still has enough time to cancel the candidature of the tainted leaders and file a fresh list”. “...she’s not serious about the charges and is indulging in mere theatrics to gain public sympathy. This is a desperate attempt to salvage the situation but it won’t have any impact. People have made up their minds to throw her out.”

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