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Mamata seeks Somnath scalp

Calcutta, March 23: Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee today demanded the resignation of several CPM MPs, including the Speaker, and said Somnath Chatterjee had used the state exchequer to fund his personal expenses.

Mamata said Chatterjee had abused his powers when he was chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. He was also an MP at the time.

Sources in the government said Chatterjee, as chairman of WBIDC, had gone on a 29-day trip to the US in December 1996-January 1997 to woo investors to Bengal.

Mamata alleged tonight that during this trip Chatterjee had incurred personal expenses which he passed on to the WBIDC.

“It is quite shameful. Number one, being an MP, he (Chatterjee) did not have the moral sanction to enjoy the benefits of the chairman’s office at WBIDC. The CPM MPs have been doing this all along,” she said.

Chatterjee was not available for comment. The Speaker, who was scheduled to leave for Vietnam today, has cancelled the visit on medical advice, adds PTI.

Mamata said Sonia Gandhi had no option but to step down as she would have eventually been disqualified. “Chatterjee should follow suit as now he is not merely an MP but the Lok Sabha Speaker.”

Chatterjee, who is now chairman of the Sriniketan-Santiniketan Development Authority, enjoys the benefits that go with the office, she alleged.

Mohammad Salim, another CPM MP charged by Mamata with holding an office of profit, said party MPs would not resign. He had never used any facilities as chairman of West Bengal Minorities Finance Development Corporation, Salim added.

“Yes, there are certain grey areas in the disqualification act and that has led to lots of interpretations. Parliament should revisit the act and make necessary changes to avoid confusion,” he said.

Others in Mamata’s line of fire are Hannan Mollah (chairman, wakf board), Bangshagopal Chowdhury (chairman, Asansol-Durgapur Development Authority), Sujan Chakraborty (chairman, West Bengal Phytochemical Development Corporation), Swadesh Chakraborty (chairman, Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners), Laxman Seth (chairman, Haldia Development Authority) and Amitava Nandi (chairman, State Fisheries Development Corporation). Sudhanshu Sil has also been accused of holding an office of profit.

Sujan Chakraborty said tonight: “I do not accept a salary, nor do I enjoy telephone facilities. At times I use the corporation’s cars for official purposes.”

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