In a blunt message to partymen, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said she was against extortion and would raise funds for panchayat elections by selling her paintings.
"Instead of raising funds through extortion, if we collect money through some creative work like this we should do it," Banerjee said inaugurating an exhibition of 250 of her paintings at the Town Hall in Kolkata.
She said "when my head turns heavy with hard work at the Writers' Buildings (state secretariat), I paint for ten to 15 minutes. It is my passion, not profession."
Banerjee, West Bengal chief minister, said if she asked for money she would be able to get it, but instead of doing it she was raising funds by selling her paintings and also by selling posters and flags for the party.
"As an individual, as Mamata Banerjee I also did the same thing before the assembly election last year," she said.
She said ".... I have to run a party. But I will not run the party through stealing. It is my decision."
She said that out of Rs 3 crore generated from the sale of her paintings last time, Rs. 1 crore was given to families of the Nandigram police firing victims.
Banerjee also pointed out that since taking oath on May 20 last year, she had not taken salary and allowances she was entitled to.
"I was a parliamentarian for 23 years. If I wish I can draw a pension amounting to Rs. 50,000 per month. But I have not taken as yet," Banerjee, who resigned the Lok Sabha seat after she was elected to the assembly from Bhowanipore in October 2011, said.
Stating that she did not avail of executive class travel in flights saving government money, she said "It is a small matter. Sometimes someone remembers, sometimes not. I do not deserve anything for that. I am not taking credit for it. It is a social responsibility."
Painter Jogen Chowdhury said "she has evolved as an artist since I saw her work eight years ago."
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien said this was the fourth exhibition of Banerjee's paintings which would continue till January 17. The paintings would later be auctioned to the highest bidders.