On BJP’s ‘cut money’ attack, Mamata Banerjee’s ‘black money’ riposte
To counter the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign against Trinamool Congress leaders who allegedly took ‘cut money’ from beneficiaries of state-funded social welfare schemes, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday alleged that BJP leaders had amassed ‘black money’ to the tune of billions of rupees and it should be returned to the people of India.
“Return all the black money you (BJP) made. You spent billions on the Lok Sabha elections and your party office in Delhi. Lawyer Indira Jaising’s home was raided because she received foreign aid while you (BJP) passed a law in Parliament to receive funds from abroad. How much property have you purchased with black money in Bengal after demonetization? Return all that to the people,” Banerjee said at her party’s annual Martyr’s Day rally in Kolkata.
To put counter pressure on the BJP, she announced a series of agitations across Bengal. The day is observed in memory of the 13 Youth Congress workers who were killed in police firing in 1993. At that time, Banerjee was the West Bengal Youth Congress president.
Banerjee alleged that BJP leaders have taken bribes from the people for clearing permits for petrol pumps and LPG dealerships. “I have documents which prove that BJP leaders made millions out of the Centre’s Ujjwala scheme. Dacoits are talking of cut money,” said Banerjee. She also alleged that some MLAs in her party were offered petroleum dealerships and Rs 2 crore per head for switching sides.
Incidentally, it was Banerjee who coined the words ‘cut money’ at a party meeting on June 18 and asked district leaders to return the money they took from people, triggering a stir in the process. On Sunday, she said, “I simply asked my leaders to ensure that common people are not exploited. BJP is talking about this loudly because it has won 18 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal. Tomorrow, these results will be reversed.”
Held under challenging circumstances since Banerjee assumed power in 2011, the rally, held in the heart of Kolkata, was attended by around 1,50,000 people. BJP and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders, however, claimed that the meeting was a damp squib and thinly attended.
Banerjee reiterated her demand for reintroduction of ballot papers saying electronic voting machines (EVM) were programmed to ensure BJP’s victory. “How could BJP leaders predict poll results before they were announced. They called it history. Actually, it is a mystery. Countries in Europe and the USA did away with EVMs long ago. We want all forthcoming polls in Bengal to be held with a paper ballot,” said Banerjee.
Banerjee alleged that TMC leaders and some movie celebrities who were questioned by Central probe agencies (in connection with chit fund scams) were asked by the officers to meet certain BJP leaders if they wanted relief. “One of my leaders was asked to name an influential politician as the culprit in a particular case. He refused,” Banerjee said.
Banerjee asked TMC workers to hold agitations on black money and observe Independence Day, Teachers Day and the birthdays of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar and Mahatma Gandhi.
Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh rubbished the allegations. “TMC is losing ground and today’s flop show was the proof. She is free to investigate if she has proof (of corruption) against us. She is the one who is scared of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s probes into Narada and Sarada scams,” said Ghosh.
Maidul Islam, associate professor of political science at Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, said, “It seems Banerjee will use aggression to counter the BJP but her body language and her speech gave an impression that she was lacking confidence and composure.”
This was TMC’s first Martyr’s Day rally after it roped in election strategist Prashant Kishor to prepare for the Assembly polls in 2021.