Narada investigation- Can the Left come back in West Bengal?
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) is still reeling from the after effects of the Narada sting case. However, the case seems to be a boon for the Left parties in West Bengal, as evidenced by massive turnouts in their rallies, indicating a possible recovery in popular support. Will the Left be able to leverage the situation and make a comeback in West Bengal?
It refers to a series of sting operations conducted over a period of two years by Narada News in West Bengal, securing video evidence of 12 TMC ministers accepting bribes. The footage was broadcast ahead of 2016 West Bengal state assembly polls. Although TMC won the 2016 elections, the government suffered a major setback, when the Calcutta HC ordered CBI investigation into the matter.
The CBI has filed FIRs under the Prevention of Corruption Act against 12 TMC leaders including, Rajya Sabha MP, Mukul Roy, ministers in the West Bengal government including Kolkata mayor and environment minister Sovan Chatterjee, and Lok Sabha MPs including Saugata Roy and Prasun Banerjee.
While the Party won hearts in Bengal riding on people's resentment against a three decade long Left rule in the state, TMC popularity has taken a serious hit following CM Mamata Banerjee's decision to back the accused politicians. TMC's declining popularity is further evidenced by a previously unseen trend of increasing BJP vote share and huge turnout in the recent Ram Navami event.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) plans to take advantage of the dip in TMC popularity and hopes to recover from its abysmal performance in 2016. While pushing for disciplinary action against the implicated leaders, the Left has also highlighted CBI's failure to prove the charges as testimony to the centre's inefficacy, thereby using the Narada sting to take down two of its competitors.
CPI (M) General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury notes, " TMC and BJP play supplementary roles for each other. While CBI probes into Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scams move at snail's pace, Trinamool leaders remain absent from Rajya Sabha when the BJP places anti-people bills."
CPI (M) has shown signs of recovery from its abysmal performance in the 2016 state polls, by winning a few trade union and co-operative elections in the past couple of months. The Party is likely to achieve some impact, if it continues to pour in resources into highlighting corruption and inaction, throughout the course of the investigation, which is likely to take long.
CPI (M) MP Mohammad Salim notes that revelations did not affect TMC performance in 2016, as, "the tapes were released right before the polls with hype created by the media. We had no time to build up a fresh campaign right down to the villages."
Voters in West Bengal are generally regarded rational. While TMC remained untouched by release of the Narada tapes in 2016, its confirmation of authenticity could re-shape voting patterns. TMC could hence lose votes and CPI (M) or BJP could gain. Moreover, going by past trends, TMC is likely to stop left candidates from contesting, driving the voters toward BJP.