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Karat holds black money fire on Mamata

Calcutta, April 21: CPM general secretary Prakash Karat today clarified he did not make any allegations that the Trinamul Congress was using black money but added he had “apprehensions” that there could be a flow of “illegal money’’ in the elections.

“I didn’t allege that Trinamul is using black money. Actually, I apprehend that such money will be used in this election... there are some indications. What I want to say is that the Election Commission should take measures to check the flow of illegal money in the Bengal polls,” Karat told reporters at Alimuddin Street.

Karat’s show of restraint is in sharp contrast with the public posture of his Bengal party colleagues who have been directly hitting out at Mamata Banerjee with charges that her helicopter trips were being funded by “black money’’.

The cautious response came two days after the CPM general secretary had indirectly referred to Mamata as a “goongi gudiya” (dumb doll) while accusing her of keeping silent in Delhi about price rise. The reference had raised some eyebrows in the party, whose central committee had decided not to make any personal attacks on the Trinamul leader.

Some CPM leaders suggested that Karat’s careful comments today were intended at projecting himself as a “responsible” national leader of the party who did not want to get entangled in the crossfire over specific issues.

Trinamul has already served a legal notice on minister Gautam Deb for levelling the black money allegations.

Karat’s thrust on the Election Commission also came on a day the panel said it had seized Rs 1 crore in black money from Bengal, including Singur. The commission said if there was any political link to the seizures, it would be made public later.

CPM central committee member and housing minister Deb had alleged last Saturday that Rs 100 crore of black money was being spent by Trinamul to fund elections and that each of the party’s 226 candidates were paid Rs 15 lakh in cash for election campaigns.

Today, Deb alleged that Mamata had Rs 15 lakh in a bank in Delhi. He said he was “gathering information on more such secret accounts”.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had also questioned the source of the huge amount of “black money’’ being used by Trinamul in the Assembly polls.

According to Karat, the poll panel should initiate measures in Bengal on lines of those taken in the recently held Tamil Nadu elections to check the flow of black money. “The flow of illegal money is a serious issue. In Tamil Nadu, we have seen how hundreds of crores of rupees were utilised in the polls. A minibus was found carrying Rs 5 crore in cash. The EC had to adopt special measures to check the flow there... like setting up checkposts on major roads and highways,’’ Karat said.“So, why not checkposts in Bengal too? We will request the EC to do so in this state. After all, money has no boundaries,’’ he added.

Asked whether his party was clean on the use of money, Karat said the CPM’s books of accounts were maintained properly and would be submitted to the EC in due course for its perusal and approval.

Karat welcomed CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee’s decision to campaign for the party’s candidates.

“As far as this election is concerned, lines are drawn between the Left Front and those opposing us. Any personality, be it Somnath Chatterjee or anybody, who wants to support the front is welcome. Many of them may have other views but can campaign for us,’’ said Karat, who was instrumental in expelling Chatterjee after the standoff during the nuclear deal controversy in Delhi in 2008.

Prakash Karat on Thursday asked Sonia Gandhi if the Centre was “doing charity” following the Congress president’s remarks that the Bengal government had failed to use money given by Delhi.

“Is the Centre doing charity? It is the Centre’s duty to devolve resources to states... states are entitled constitutionally to get their share,” Karat said. He said Bengal needed much more resources and that the money being given by the Centre was not “somebody’s property”.

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