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Barb for barb on CM family’s property

Gautam Deb and Firhad Hakim at their news conferences in Calcutta. Picture by Sanjay Chattopadhyaya

Calcutta, April 29: CPM central committee member Gautam Deb today raised questions about chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s paintings and her family’s properties at a news conference at Alimuddin Street.

A list of the charges Deb made and Trinamul’s rebuttal

Deb’s charges

• Several of Mamata Banerjee’s family members have bought land and flats in Kalighat, Alipore and Chetla. Some of the deeds in the names of Mamata’s brothers and sisters-in-law mention their addresses as 30B, Harish Chatterjee Street, which is Mamata’s residence. (Deb held aloft some papers claiming they were photocopies of 14 plots and flat deeds and titles).

• Deb specified that property had been bought in the names of Kajari Banerjee (wife of Samir, Mamata’s brother), Lata Banerjee (the mother of Mamata’s nephew and Trinamul’s Diamond Harbour candidate Abhishek Banerjee), Ajit Banerjee (another of Mamata’s brothers), and also a hotel in Puri.

• Property worth around Rs 20 crore has been bought by Mamata’s family. “This is only the tip of the iceberg,’’ Deb said.

“I am not saying that her family members cannot purchase land and flats or any other property. But my question is, how funds were mobilised and whether such huge property transactions took place under the influence of somebody in the family,’’ the CPM leader said.

• Deb said: “There is a problem with her DNA. What do I say, she’s a pathological liar.”

• Mamata has held several painting exhibitions since 2004. “But the big question is who bought these paintings. Mamata must address this question. It may have been the case that Saradha owner Sudipta Sen had bought many of these paintings on each occasion,” Deb said.

After Deb’s jabs, state urban development minister Firhad Hakim addressed a news conference to respond to the charges. He had finance minister Amit Mitra and Trinamul Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien by his side.

Hakim’s counter

• Hakim said he has known Mamata’s family for 25 years as he is from the neighbourhood, adding that Deb’s claims were “heinous lies”.

“Everybody has the right to livelihood, the Constitution gives every citizen that right. The brothers run their own businesses, having started from scratch. They file their tax returns and do their business honestly,” he said.

“They (the brothers and their wives) run their own households, separately from Didi. Didi has nothing to do with them. They have never used her name or clout for their purposes,” he said.

• “Even the moon has blemishes, but she has none. She is India’s last hope. That is why the CPM, the BJP and the Congress have joined forces to ruin her and her party. They will be answered by the people,” Hakim said.

• If Narendra Modi or the CPM can prove that a painting was bought for Rs 1.80 crore, he would resign from the ministry, Hakim said.

“He should take responsibility for the baseless allegation and withdraw his candidature of Prime Ministership,” Hakim said. (BJP state president Rahul Sinha has clarified that when Modi mentioned the figure of Rs 1.8 crore, he had referred to the collective proceeds from all paintings at an exhibition.)

O’Brien said all details on the sale of Mamata’s paintings had been submitted by Trinamul to the Election Commission over the years.

Sudipta Sen and Gautam Deb are close friends and the latter, as the housing minister in the Left Front government, used to benefit financially from the Saradha Group chief, Hakim alleged.

The minister read out excerpts from the statement of a former Hidco public relations officer, Anjan Bhattacharya, who later served in the public relations wing of the Saradha Group’s media business.

According to Hakim, Bhattacharya was hired by the Saradha Group following an introduction to Sen by Deb. From being a contractual employee of Hidco, he became a full-time staff member of the Saradha Group, for a monthly pay of Rs 1.20 lakh, he said.

“These are all part of Bhattacharya’s statement given to a magistrate…. He has said that Sen and Deb were very close,” Hakim said.

“Also, according to the statement, Sen used to send a loaded white envelope to Deb regularly, through his associate Ranjit Adhya. They could not have been love letters. There were under-the-table deals. Bhattacharya saw that happen four or five times, even at Deb’s Salt Lake home,” he said.