In this season of scams, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has asked all her ministers to submit a list of their assets, liabilities and income. The move is aimed at maintaining a clean and transparent image of the government and rooting out corruption in her 15-month-old government.
The directive to furnish the list went out a couple of weeks ago from Mamata Banerjee. The list should contain details of their assets, liabilities and income, including business interests, if any. According to Trinamool Congress leaders, the information will be scrutinised. Such a declaration also falls within the code of conduct of ministers.
Trinamool leaders told HT that although, officially, there was no charge against any minister, Banerjee wanted to leave no room for corruption.
On Wednesday, CPI(M) central committee member Md Selim welcomed the move, but commented that Mamata should put it out in the public domain. “She should declare the assets of her ministers in May 2011 and now. That would reveal the true picture,” Selim told HT.
“Our leader is a symbol of honesty in the country. We applaud her decision to ask for details of our assets. This won’t only help us maintain a clean image as hers, but also weed out any possibility of corruption,” Firhad Hakim, urban development minister, told HT.
“There’s no deadline, but she’s asked us to submit the details at the earliest opportunity. As for myself, I’ve already submitted details of my assets and income, including incometax returns,” Hakim added.
“It’s a good move and we’re following her instructions,” Subrata Mukherjee, irrigation minister, said.
The move comes at a time when UPA-II is rocked by scams and the BJP is going for the prime minister’s jugular over the coal block allocation issue, stalling parliamentary proceedings for the past few days.
According to details filed with the Election Commission, state finance minister Amit Mitra and his spouse have assets worth Rs. 7 crore, while Firhad Hakim has assets worth more than Rs. 3 crore and law minister Moloy Ghatak has assets of Rs. 55 lakh.
Mamata Banerjee has already distanced herself from various scams at the Centre and, keeping in mind the coming panchayat polls and Lok Sabha elections thereafter, she is focussed on maintaining a clean image for her party and leaders. At various public meetings, she has announced that she will not spare any party functionary involved in corruption.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee is thinking of holding three-tier panchayat polls in Bengal in early 2013. She believes holding the rural polls in December 2012 will not give the Trinamool Congress any political advantage.
The term of the three-tier bodies would expire in May 2013. And even if rural polls are held early, the panchayat bodies elected in 2008 would continue to function till the termination of their full term.
The government file asking the state Election Commission to prepare for the panchayat elections in the state is still lying in the CM secretariat and is waiting for Banerjee’s signature.
“Mamata Banerjee knows holding the panchayat polls in December 2012 would not give us any political advantage,” said state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee.
Confident of a comfortable victory in the rural polls, Banerjee said corruption in the panchayats, non-performance of the rural bodies in the last 34 years, misuse of central funds for rural development and the promise that homestead and farmlands would not be acquired forcibly from the farmers for setting up of industries and Special Economic Zones (SEZ) would be Trinamool electoral issues.
Banerjee alleged that under the Left Front government there has been huge embezzlement of development and misuse of rural funds. She said state finance minister Amit Mitra has done 24 special audits and has discovered the financial discrepancies.
“Land predators, the CPI(M) and the Congress, cannot claim to be the champions of farmers. Where were they, when I was on a 26-day hunger strike for the Singur farmers in 2006,” asked an agitated Banerjee.
For Banerjee, the ensuing panchayat polls are crucial. Though the Left Front has been routed in 2011 Assembly polls, the CPI(M)-led Front controls 14 out of 18 zilla parishads in the state, the Congress and the Trinamool hold two each.
“Central funds for rural development come directly to panchayats. So unless one controls the rural bodies, one cannot pursue one’s own model of developmet in the villages,” said Mukherjee.
After a rout in the 2006 Assembly polls, it was Banerjee’s pro-farmer movement in Singur and Nandigram and political agitations against forcible acquisition of more than 80,000 acres of farmlands in the state by the Left Front government to set up industries and SEZ catapulted her to the limelight.
“Our government will only acquire land for government projects such as constructing roads, laying railway lines and water pipes and building hospitals,” said Banerjee.
Trinamool’s land policy in the state will be conveyed to the UPA-II government at the Centre.
Banerjee, who appointed railways minister Mukul Roy as Leader of the Trinamool Congress Parliamentary Party, will oppose the UPA’s Land Acquisition Bill both inside Parliament and in Cabinet meetings.