With the BJP rapidly making inroads in West Bengal, TMC chief and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked her party leaders last week to ensure that “cut money” or illegal commissions allegedly charged by some workers to help people avail government benefits are refunded.
This, however, has led to an unusual situation: TMC leaders are being targeted by many seeking such refunds. Police have even reported cases of assault against some leaders. And others are being asked to give written declarations that they would refund the “cut money”.
On Monday, police said the house of TMC deputy pradhan of Mangalkot in Burdwan, Binay Chakraborty, was “raided” by local residents demanding refunds. Chakraborty’s car was vandalised and he was forced to take shelter at the local party office.
According to police and party leaders, similar incidents have been reported from the districts of Hooghly, Uttar Dinajpur, Malda, Alipurduar, Birbhum, East Burdwan, West Burdwan and West Midnapore.
On Sunday, party leaders said, Trinamool leader in East Burdwan’s Oushgram, Ujjwal Mondal, was forced to submit in writing that he would refund amounts ranging from Rs 8,000-Rs 10,000 to beneficiaries of schemes. At Mangalkot in the district, three panchayat members were similarly forced to give an undertaking, leaders said.
At Sonamukhi in Bankura, over 50 villagers were reported to have staged a demonstration before a panchayat member. In Birbhum, police said a pregnant panchayat member in Fulur had to flee her home fearing attacks by local residents. Similar incidents have been reported from Nanoor and Ilambazar in Birbhum, and Goghat, Badangunj, and Tarakeshwar in Hooghly.
TMC leaders, however, have accused the BJP of orchestrating many of these attacks. “A campaign is going on to brand all public representatives as corrupt. But there are only one or two per cent of the public representatives of our party who have done this. The administration has taken action against them and will continue to do so in future,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Firhad Hakim.
The BJP, meanwhile, has decided to launch a campaign from Tuesday to demand the return of “cut money” from TMC leaders. “We will visit their houses in a decent manner, without any intention to attack them. We will take the people along with us who have given commissions to such leaders. We will bring them face-to-face. We will ask them to refund the money. We will videotape the visits as proof that we are not using force. We will do the job of government officials,” said state BJP Yuva Morcha president Debjit Sarkar.
The issue has also featured in the Assembly where the Opposition Left Front and Congress staged a walkout. Leader of Opposition Abdul Mannan has demanded the formation of a commission to refund “cut money”.
Police said they have taken action in several cases. Last Wednesday, Sukesh Yadav, a Trinamool leader from Malda, was arrested for allegedly accepting nearly Rs 1 crore in illegal commissions to facilitate benefits under the Nirmal Bangla Mission for cleanliness. Yadav was the head of the Mahanandatola gram panchayat of Ratua.
Another accused in the case, Pramod Kumar, was arrested for allegedly receiving his “share” of money. “A government employee was arrested in Malda on Saturday. He has been accused of taking money in the name of government schemes. He was posted in Ratua block of Malda district. He was working under the same mission,” said a police officer.
Last Thursday, police arrested another TMC leader from Haldia on charges of corruption. “Milan Mondal was arrested as there were several cases pending against him, including some related to corruption,” said a senior police officer.