There is an uncanny resemblance between Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal. The similarities begin with the kind of simple and humble image they both portray and project of themselves. This image building exercise of trying to connect to the common man did work as both came to power in their respective states. Their rise was pathbreaking. Kejriwal won Delhi at the back drop of anti-corruption crusade and trounced BJP and Congress to highlight alternative in the state politics. The same aspect resonated with TMC and Mamata Banerjee who uprooted decades of left rule to promote herself as some sort of transformation in the annals of Bengal politics. Both displayed sheer activism in dismantling mainstream polity and emerge as popular leaders.
But the similarity doesn’t end here. Even if both are exhibiting new age politics from the outside, their policies and functioning is no less than any corrupt main stream political party. AAP has been embroiled in scams, sex scandals, exorbitant money splurging on public relations and even the infamous defamation. All the gloss highlighted as a ‘party with a difference’ went down the drain.
Nevertheless, it’s faster in case of Mamata Banerjee and the TMC.
The party which decimated decades of communist control is deeply mired in a two-prong situation of corruption and minority appeasement. The pseudo secularism achieved by the TMC leader has grown by leaps and bounds. However, the main highlight of her mis governance continues to be a string of financial scandals and scams.
The Sharada scam is to TMC what 2G scam was to the UPA. It somehow dented the popularity of the TMC and subsequent expose of more scams have added to their misery. A lot of poor people had invested in Sharada housing scheme which reportedly was siphoned off to TMC brigade. The financial scam amounted to thousands of crores and has affected near 2 million people. Sharada Chief Sudipto Sen has connected the scam to top TMC honchos. The tide of the financial mess pertaining to Sharada had not subsided when the Narada tapes came to the forefront. Narada Tapes refers to an array of sting operations involving several ministers of the ruling TMC allegedly accepting bribes. Although these scams didn’t derail TMC from coming to power but the enormity of it together just may reduce the shelf life of TMC in Bengal.
Whilst TMC was severely caught in the couplet of Sharada and Narada, the emergence of Rose chit valley scam, allegedly valued seven times bigger than Sharada then surfaced. Perhaps the extent of the scandal may have capitulated it as TMC’s own coal gate. It is pegged at 60,000 crores and may be the biggest ponzi fraud in India with direct connections to TMC yet again in the form of MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay.
With the waves of monumental scams hitting the TMC shores, Times Now group has exposed an income tax notice to the TMC seeking information on 24 crores unaccounted splurge in 2014. The money was allegedly spent on TMC’s public relations exercise for the general elections. The income tax has listed four areas of discrepancies.
The first discrepancy is about the use of choppers hired by TMC during the Lok Sabha elections which amounts to 15 crores. The choppers perhaps were used to ferry the CM for campaigning and involved the cities of Kolkata and Mumbai. The second discrepancy involves PR spending through newspaper advertisements with the help of three agencies. The money used was paltry but no accounting of the same has evoked propriety issues. The third discrepancy is about rallies during elections and poll expenses. The fourth discrepancy is about benami cash found in TMC coffers. The IT department has unearthed a party account in Haryana of the TMC which received in a fortnight about 88 lakhs in cash which attracted IT sleuths.
The extension requested by the TMC in replying to the queries of the IT department has raised several eye brows. Even when the Times Now reporters were seeking answers from the defiant TMC panelists, they seem to have deflected the blame on political vendetta and witch hunting by the BJP. The nervousness harboured by the TMC after these scams is strikingly visible.
There are three fall outs with respect to the ever-increasing scams in the TMC kitty.
Firstly, it may reduce the strength of TMC and hold over Bengal. In last few years TMC has successfully penetrated itself into the pocket boroughs of the state.
Secondly, it may activate the dormant Left parties of CPI and CPM who were waiting for an opportunity to come alive. Although its effects are still not visible on the ground level, the Left slowly may spring back to life.
Another problem may be in the form of growing saffron wave in the state where BJP is trying to emerge as an alternative to both TMC and the Left. The growing clout of counter ‘saffronisation’ to minority appeasement of the TMC will gather teeth with these scams adding to the fire.
Thirdly, these scandals will severely affect a grand coalition formulated to take on the BJP. With Nitish Kumar caught in his own political quagmire, Mamata Banerjee was the only vocal opposition against the BJP and PM Modi. The emergence of so many scams will blunt her verbal attacks and hurt chances of putting a united front against the BJP in 2019. Too many financial scams may render TMC to the same situation which led UPA into its impending waterloo.
The series of scams in lieu with TMC is like a multi-layered cake. The latest revelations by Times Now even if small in terms of the money involved is like a cherry atop other scams and scandals. West Bengal has large cache of parliamentary Lok Sabha seats and BJP President Amit Shah has trained his guns on the same. Being a border state too, the onus and stakes are high on West Bengal. Perhaps they needed a momentum and the scams of the TMC are providing that niche. It is about time Mamata Banerjee starts acting on her internal mess in the party. Or else TMC too shall reach the same position where the communist parties have reached now.