| Union coal and mines minister Mamata Banerjee at the meeting on Monday. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, Jan. 12: In her first public appearance since bagging the Union coal and mines ministry, Mamata Banerjee kickstarted a campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.
Her stick to beat the government with was apparent. The “burden” of taxes Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government has put on “common people” will be fought tooth and nail, the Trinamul Congress chief said even as she rejected a climbdown from the February 3 bandh call.
The 12-hour shutdown is on unless the government withdraws its circular proposing taxes on pets and livestock in rural areas, Mamata said. She was also not in favour of the lifetime tax on two-wheelers.
“Now the government will impose tax on people walking the streets of Calcutta. But we will fight tooth and nail against all kinds of taxes that burden common people,” she said at a programme of the Trinamul-controlled union of Calcutta Municipal Corporation employees.
Recounting her tenure as railway minister, Mamata said she always thought of “ways to minimise the burden on people”. “When I was the rail minister, I never increased passenger fares. But, at the same time, I worked out ways to increase the revenue of my ministry,” she said.
With the minority vote base in mind, Mamata tried to clarify her alliance with the BJP. “The Trinamul and the BJP will contest the polls on a joint platform, but it is not religious. It is a political platform,” she said.
Describing the state government as “bankrupt”, Mamata said it is caught in a Rs 1,00,000-crore debt trap and moving aimlessly. Trinamul, she said, is opposed to the government’s ways of increasing revenue by bringing bicycles, livestock, pets and rural roads in the tax net. “If the government does not drop the proposals to tax the rural people, Trinamul will launch a bigger movement against it after the February 3 bandh,” Mamata added.
She charged the CPM-led government with double standards and said it is now shelving the rural taxes because the elections are round the corner. “The government has not withdrawn the notification served to the panchayats proposing the taxes. But, at the same time, it is saying that the taxes will not be imposed. It is resorting to this doublespeak because of the Lok Sabha polls.”
Trinamul sources said on returning from Delhi last night, Mamata instructed Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee and aide Mukul Roy to launch a campaign in the rural belt in support of the bandh and against the rural taxes.
She also asked mayor Subrata Mukherjee, who was present at the meeting, to review and restructure the procedure of taxation by the civic bodies.
Mukherjee said the corporation is drawing up a scheme to reduce property tax in the city.