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Cash incentive finger at Anubrata

March 12: Birbhum Trinamul chief Anubrata Mondal today promised cash rewards to party committees in whose areas the district’s Lok Sabha poll candidates secure the maximum victory margins, claimed party leaders who attended the closed-door session where the assurance was apparently given.

According to the Trinamul leaders and activists who attended the party workers’ meeting at the Gitanjali auditorium in Bolpur, Mondal said the cash incentives would be Rs 1 lakh at the panchayat level and Rs 5 lakh each at the block and municipal levels.

When reporters asked Mondal after the meeting if he had made such a promise, the leader declined comment. Election Commission officials said they would “wait and watch” as nobody had complained against Mondal and the panel did not yet have evidence of the leader promising cash incentives.

A senior Trinamul leader who was present at the meeting quoted Mondal as saying: “The two party committees at the block and municipality levels that will ensure the highest margins for our candidates will be rewarded Rs 5 lakh each. The committee at the panchayat level will be awarded Rs 1 lakh. These rewards will be given to encourage healthy competition among party leaders at the three levels.”

The Trinamul leader said on condition of anonymity that Mondal, an accused in a case of murder that followed a provocative speech he gave before last year’s panchayat polls, today instructed party workers to “work hard and ensure the victory of the two party candidates from Bolpur and Birbhum”.

Satabdi Roy is the Trinamul candidate for Birbhum and Anupam Hazra for Bolpur.

There are 167 gram panchayats, 19 blocks and seven municipalities in Birbhum. Trinamul has anchal committees at the panchayat level, block committees at the block level and town committees at the municipal level.

Asked about the claims that Mondal had announced cash rewards, Trinamul’s Rampurhat MLA Ashis Banerjee said: “It is a good decision. Competition will help activists and leaders of our party to work hard in their areas and it will result in victories by huge margins.”

Banerjee said the rewards — amounting to Rs 11 lakh — would be given from the funds of Trinamul’s district committee. “This fund has nothing to do with the funds used for campaigning,” he added.

Satabdi, who attended the meeting, said when asked if Mondal had promised cash: “After the announcement of the incentives, I hope the workers and leaders will be more zealous and compete to achieve their goal and the reward. Don’t measure the prize by the amount, it will be a matter of pride for the block, municipality and gram panchayat.”

Aswini Tiwari, the chairman of the Trinamul-run Rampurhat municipality said this was the “first time a Trinamul leader had promised such a reward”.

Asked if promise of cashincentives amounted to violation of the model code of conduct, Election Commission sources said the poll panel was likely to “wait and watch” as it was “unclear” if Mondal hadmade a public announcement that could influence voters.

“First of all, we are yet to be informed of this officially. Second, we don’t know if there was a public announcement. If the announcement was made before party workers behind closed doors, there is not much the commission can do in the absence of a complaint,” a panel source said this evening.

“Party workers are also voters. So it could be interpreted as a violation of the model code. But such an allegation would be difficult to prove in the absence of video footage if the workers deny any announcement of reward by the Birbhum party president,” he added.