Bengal opposition parties protest over Narada issue
Kolkata: West Bengal’s opposition parties on Saturday protested on the streets and also inside the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) demanding resignation of the ministers, MPs and lawmakers of Trinamool Congress whose names figure in the Narada sting footage.
A day after the Calcutta High Court ordered a CBI probe into the Narada sting operation case, slogan-shouting Congress and Left Front councillors demanded the resignation of Mayor Sovan Chatterjee and tried to prevent him from presenting the civic body’s annual budget.
As the opposition councillors tried to move towards the Mayor, the Trinamool councillors stopped them, leading to a scuffle between the two groups.
“The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has been disgraced. A person whose name figures in an allegation of bribery which is being probed by the CBI is not fit to place the budget of such an august organisation. But when we tried to prevent him (the Mayor) from placing the budget, we were physically assaulted.
“So, all opposition councillors boycotted his budget speech. We want that all those who are involved should be punished,” said Congress Councillor Prakash Upadhyay.
Chatterjee later said the opposition’s behaviour reflected their culture.
“They could not stop us from presenting the budget. We read the entire budget. They should have listened to it. We are here because we have the mandate of the people,” he said.
Led by its state General Secretary Om Prakash Mishra, the Congress took out a rally from Hazra crossing to Shakespeare Sarani, demanding the resignation all ministers seen taking money in the video footage.
Youth Congress activists staged a demonstration outside the gate of the Raj Bhavan.
“Remove all ministers tainted by the Narada scam,” said posters and festoons carried by the Youth Congress workers.
The CPI-M took out rallies in several localities of the city and districts on the issue.
The Calcutta High Court on Friday ordered a CBI preliminary inquiry into the Narada footage case, and asked the CBI to take possession of all devices used for the sting operation in 24 hours. It also directed the central agency to finish the preliminary inquiry within 72 hours and thereafter register an FIR depending on the inquiry findings.
Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has described the order as “unfortunate” and said it would be challenged in the Supreme Court.
The controversy erupted in March last year when Narada News portal uploaded a series of video footage, purportedly showing a number of high-profile Trinamool leaders, including former and present ministers, MPs and state lawmakers, receiving money in exchange of favours to a fictitious company.
The Narada News footage became a big issue during the 2016 West Bengal assembly polls, but the Trinamool Congress managed to retain power despite a vigorous anti-corruption campaign by the Opposition.
Soon after, in June, Banerjee ordered a probe headed by the city Police Commissioner to find out the “conspiracy” angle to the sting.
Police booked Narada News CEO Mathew Samuel, who had conducted the sting, on several charges and issued him summons for personal appearance.
However, in August, the Calcutta High Court ordered an interim stay on the police probe.