The Trinamool Congress which has dispatched to Delhi about 3,000 of its foot soldiers — allegedly in the garb of unpaid MNREGA workers — to participate in an anti-Centre rally seemed to concede roundly that corruption had indeed taken place in the implementation of the 100-days’ work scheme.
While reminding Prime Minister Narendra Modi that his Government in the Centre “cannot browbeat the brave Trinamool Congress cadre into submission”, TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee on Sunday said complaints of corruption should not be made the ground for withholding Central funds meant for the uplift of the poor.
“There may be a few corrupt people who should be punished … but why do the whole lot of people be punished for that… Why is Prime Minister Narendra Modi punishing 2.5 crore people of Bengal” for the offence committed by 20 people,” Banerjee asked, reminding how the Centre had released the funds to the Assam Government despite reports of corruption there.
“Have they not released funds to Assam Government where too corruption has taken place … if they can release funds for one State then why this discrimination against Bengal,” Banerjee who is also the nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, reminding how the “poor workers of our State have been made to starve for about two years now” just because they voted against the BJP in 2021 Assembly elections.
“They can release `20,000 crore for the Prime Minister’s house but they cannot release funds for the poor unpaid workers when the Central Act makes the payment mandatory within `15 days of the work getting done,” Banerjee said reminding how the “Centre takes away the GST from the people of Bengal and refuses to return the money back to them.”
While the TMC claims that the Centre has withheld about `15,000 crore of MNREGA funds which is a small part of the total Central deprivation amounting to more than `1 lakh crore the Opposition BJP has hit back saying the “Mamata Banerjee Government is transferring the blame on the BJP whereas even after repeated reminders they have failed to account for the previous funds released to them.”
BJP State president Sukanta Majumdar said his party would “soon expose the TMC through a statistic showing the amount of money that has been misappropriated by their workers… About 15 lakh fake job cards have been cancelled … you can figure out the amount that has been lifted through those 15 lakh fake job cards…. This is public money after all and cannot be released at will … and now they are trying to transfer the blame at our doors.”
The TMC general secretary who had earlier promised to ferry two lakh people to Delhi on Saturday and Sunday flagged off about 50 buses-loads of party men to take part in dharna in Delhi.
The buses were arranged in a hurry after the train to Delhi, the party had booked, was cancelled by the Eastern Railways on account of unavailability of rakes amid allegations of BJP’s manipulations in providing trains to ferry their workers to the national Capital.
While the party grassroots, along with the unpaid job card holders, were left by buses the lesser leaders including panchayat, pradhans, district board members et al flew off to Delhi. The top leadership including Banerjee, his fellow MPs and the Ministers in the Mamata Cabinet and MLAs too went by air.
Banerjee, who is also the MP from Diamond Harbour, was likely to meet his party leaders on Sunday at the Lodhi Estate bungalow of former Union Minister and MP Saugato Roy, sources said. “Final strategies will be taken there in consultation with Mamata,” a senior leader said.
In a related development, much in the lines of the King of Righteousness Hammurabi’s recommendations: “eye-for-an-eye” and “tooth-for-a-tooth”, the top Trinamool Congress leadership has offered to use “baton-for-a-baton,” back in Bengal should their workers are baton-charged by the “BJP-run” Delhi Police during their show of protest in the national Capital on Monday and Wednesday.
A day after TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee warned that “if even a single deprived worker going with us is touched in Delhi then there will be consequences in Bengal,” an apparently charged up State Irrigation Minister Partha Bhowmick too let out a war cry warning, “If the batons are used there, the batons will be used here too.” He would not however use the word BJP.
Banerjee had on Saturday reminded that “like in Delhi, the Bengal Government too has its own police and they too know how to act with purpose.”
The TMC leaders’ words of caution came after Bengal BJP president Sukanta Majumdar said the “thieves” going to Delhi “should be arrested,” while another saffron leader said that the Delhi Police was not as lacklustre as their Bengal counterparts. “They know how to keep the unruly crowds under control,” he said.
The CPI(M) which has recently tasted a good jump in its vote bank — 21 per cent as against the BJP’s 22 per cent — in the rural polls immediately said the two sides —the TMC and the BJP — were rattling sabers in public in order to create a binary.
“But the people of Bengal fell in that trap in 2019 and 2021 … but they will not do so for the third time … they will do what they should do this time,” CPI(M) Central committee member Sujan Chakrabarty said. The TMC and the BJP are playing a pre-scripted game, he said. “The poor people from Bengal have been taken there … they will be beaten up and jailed and then the TMC will encash sentiments in the elections by making it a BJP-versus-TMC affair,” he said.