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Paintings sold, TMC ‘forgot’ to pay NGO

Calcutta, April 29: The Trinamul Congress forgot to hand over the proceeds from the sale of Mamata Banerjee’s paintings to the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy (IICP) despite the chief minister making a promise in public more than a year ago, a party official told The Telegraph this evening.

The Trinamul official, who declined to be quoted by name, was responding to a series of questions from this newspaper after the IICP said that it had not received any donation from the party since 2004.

Trinamul has been defending the painting sales that fetched crores by saying that the proceeds were given to charity, including to the “Spastics Society”, and used in election work.

But the IICP, known as the Spastic Society of Eastern India till 1999, said it had received only Rs 50,000 from sale of Mamata’s paintings in 2004. Shortly before that, an IICP official said, it had received Rs 25,000 and a painting by Mamata but the official could not recollect the year.

The Trinamul official said the painting and the Rs 25,000 were given in 2005.

Both versions suggest that the proceeds from the painting sales immediately before Mamata became chief minister and after she assumed power did not go to the IICP. The bulk of the sales was reported from events organised in April 2011 — less than two months before Mamata became chief minister — and in January 2013.

On February 7, 2013, soon after CPM leader Surjya Kanta Mishra wondered aloud “who bought the paintings and at what price”, Mamata had said at Writers’ Buildings: “From the funds raised from the exhibition (at the Townhall annexe), I have decided to donate Rs 10 lakh to the governor’s relief fund and Rs 25 lakh to the chief minister’s relief fund. I will give Rs 5 lakh each to our three candidates contesting the by-elections. The rest of the money would go to the Spastics Society.”

The statement would mean that other than Rs 50 lakh, the remaining amount from the exhibition proceeds should have gone to the IICP.

Subhra Chatterjee, deputy director of IICP, said this evening after being contacted by this newspaper: “Mamata Banerjee has been nice to us. The painting (given earlier) is still there in my room. But the IICP has not received any donation, either in cash or kind, from her after she became the chief minister as being mentioned in some places.”

She added: “If it (Spastics Society) means us, we received (donation) last in 2004 and nothing thereafter.” Chatterjee could not readily confirm whether there was any other organisation bearing the name of Spastic Society in the city.

The Trinamul official also did not say that the chief minister meant some other organisation.

Asked about the promise made by the chief minister more than a year ago, the Trinamul official said: “It slipped our mind. The IICP will definitely get it but after the election because we don’t want to make it a poll issue right now. We want to fight the election on the plank of development.”

Trinamul all-India general secretary Mukul Roy had said yesterday: “Every time, the amount we received from such exhibitions has been given for a social cause. In 2004, the amount was given to Spastics Society.”

Roy’s version matches with that of the IICP as far as the year 2004 is concerned. Multiple attempts to contact Roy tonight for a comment on the chief minister’s promise were unsuccessful.

IICP’s Chatterjee, who looks after the communication and resource mobilisation part of the organisation, recalled that Mamata came to their office unannounced and spent time with the children once.

“She came and tied rakhi. Later after becoming CM, she also invited our children to some government programmes, notably Children’s Film Festival,” she said.

The Trinamul source indicated that the IICP was likely to get Rs 20 lakh from the exhibition at the Town Hall annexe.

However, going by the source’s own “offhand” estimate that “over Rs 2 crore” was raised, the IICP should be given at least Rs 1.5 crore after deducting the Rs 50 lakh earmarked by the chief minister for other causes.

Documents submitted by Trinamul to the Election Commission do not show the funds raised through the sale of paintings in January 2013, according to sources in Delhi.

The Trinamul complaint against Narendra Modi for his alleged defamatory statement on Mamata included an income and expenditure statement for 2011-2012, the sources said.

The sources said the statement mentioned an income of Rs 3.939 crore from the “sale of paintings”, out of the party’s total income of Rs 10.56 crore for that financial year.

The proceeds from the Townhall annexe exhibition are expected to feature in the audited report of 2012-13. The figure Rs 3.939 crore could then possibly indicate the proceeds from the exhibition at Galerie 88 in April 2011.