A day after ordering a police probe into the Narada sting operation, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday dubbed such "exposes" as "politics of blackmail" and said the inquiry would unmask the masterminds behind the "conspiracy".
Lashing out at the sting operation conducted by the Narada News portal, Banerjee virtually backed the Trinamool Congress leaders seen accepting wads of currency notes in the video footage that became public on March 14 ahead of the state assembly polls.
Naming two of her cabinet ministers seen in the footage, she said: "It is as if Suvendu Adhikari cannot afford two square meals on his own. So he has to take Rs 1.50 lakh! As if Firhad Hakim cannot afford two square meals on his own. So he has to take Rs 2 lakh!"
"Such sting operations are nothing but politics of blackmail. They will say 'give five crores, or we will flash it'", she said at a Trinamool political workshop.
Banerjee said all political parties except her Trinamool raised money from the state during the election campaign. "A part of the Bengal media is defaming the state by raising issues like Saradha (chit fund scam) and Narada. Trinamool does not take money."
Questioning the basis of the Narada sting operation, she again stood by the Trinamool leaders allegedly caught in the footage. "I (Trinamool leaders) never wanted money from you. You sought an appointment. You wanted to meet me. And you kept some money on my table. And then you video recorded it and said he has taken bribe".
"I never sought money from you. Why did you come to my place? Does that mean no one can be given appointments? If reporters do these things, then why should people speak to reporters?
"This is a dangerous trend for the media. You come to my house with a motive. You then malign the party," she said.
Banerjee said it has to be found out how much money was raised from the market by those behind the sting operation.
"We will dig out everything. The blackmailing tactics and other aspects will come out into the open.That's the reason the probe has been ordered. We will see who all are involved."
Turning to those leaders on the dais who were seen in the footage, Banerjee asked them: "Did you ask them for money?" As they replied in the negative, she said: "You all must fully cooperate with the probe. Their (Trinamool leaders figuring in the footage) families have been humiliated."
Questioning whether Narada News had the licence to conduct a sting operation, she said: "The way our party has been humiliated, we will all remain vigilant. Those who did this (the sting operation), the masterminds have to be nabbed and unmasked."
On Friday, Banerjee ordered a police probe into the sting controversy. Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar has been entrusted with the probe.