A day after BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi questioned how a painting by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee could fetch “Rs 1.8 crore” and asked her party Trinamool Congress to reveal who the buyer was, evoked sharp reaction from Trinamool leaders.
The Indian Express has found that in the last two years Trinamool has earned Rs 6,46,90,000 through sale of Mamata’s paintings.
A balance sheet of the party submitted to the Election Commission of India (ECI) shows her paintings yielded Rs 2,53,00,000 in financial year 2012-2013 and Rs 3,93,90,000 in 2011-2012. But in 2010-2011 when her party was not in power, there was no sale of Mamata’s paintings (The Indian Express has a copy of all the three years’ balance sheets).
The state leadership of the BJP as well as Congress alleged chit fund companies were among buyers of the paintings. A CPM leader called it “painting black money into white.”
Girish N Pande, chief commissioner Income Tax (CCA), Kolkata when contacted said ECI would send a list to them after the election. “The ECI will send these financial statements and accounts to us and if we find anything we need to probe, we will,” he said.
“Scrutiny of these lists is not in our mandate,” Nodal officer Income Tax department H N Singh said.
Amit Bhattacharya, officer on special duty (OSD) at the office of the West Bengal chief electoral officer said these declarations had not been given to them. “These declarations were sent directly to ECI and if they think it necessary, they will want a breakdown of the list but as of now, there has been no intimation to us,” he said.
The statements, with covering letters of the party general secretary Mukul Roy along with the auditor’s report show that in two years after the party came into power, sale of their annual magazine also shot up. While in 2010-2011 sale proceeds amounted to Rs 3,79,280, in 2012 and 2013, the figures were Rs 12,64,319 and Rs 10,70,230, respectively.
On Monday, Mukul Roy threatened to file a defamation case against Modi for claiming one of Mamata’s paintings sold for Rs 1.80 crore. “Either he will have to apologise or face a defamation case,’’ Roy said.
Minister of State for Railways and Congress state president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said it was evident Trinamool was mustering funds. “The buyers are owners of chit fund companies and some unscrupulous industrialists who paid heavy amounts to the chief minister who became such a celebrated painter overnight after coming to power. We demand that the list of buyers be put in public domain,” he said.
BJP state president Rahul Sinha said these were ways of the CM to legalise black money. “These are money collected from chit fund companies which the party is showing as sale of paintings. We would want to know how the paintings were sold. Through auction or at random? There should be a proper investigation and tax liability of buyers should be checked,” he said.
CPI(M) leader Md Selim said, “More than anything, they are painting black money into white.”