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Trinamul takes Mamata's cue on ‘cuts’, starts meetings in Birbhum

Mamata warns party that MPs and MLAs would not be spared 'stern police action' if found guilty of corruption

By Snehamoy Chakraborty in Sainthia(Birbhum)
  • Published 22.06.19, 6:20 AM
  • Updated 22.06.19, 6:20 AM
  • 2 mins read
Villagers protest against “cuts” in Birbhum on Wednesday. (The Telegraph picture)

Local Trinamul leaders in Sainthia met beneficiaries of government welfare schemes on Thursday night and pledged police action against any party representative who took “cut money” from them, indicating Mamata Banerjee’s warning was trickling down the party rungs.

Hours later on Friday, the chief minister told a Trinamul meeting that “enough was enough”, that the party would probe every corruption complaint and that even MPs and MLAs would not be spared “stern police action” if found guilty.

In Sainthia, town Trinamul president Pinakilal Dutta presided over the meeting with 30-odd beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana housing scheme, all Ward 10 residents.

Several of the beneficiaries complained the local councillor had taken cuts while sanctioning the houses, a local Trinamul politician who was at the three-hour meeting said.

“They specifically accused a few party leaders. We assured them the party would act, just as the chief minister had said,” he said. “The complaints will be forwarded to the police. Anyone found guilty will face stern action.”

In Malda, Trinamul announced a plan to introduce an app and a toll-free number for people to report malpractices by the party’s elected representatives. 

“Cut money” has suddenly become the catchphrase in Bengal politics. On Monday, the state government had announced a grievance cell and a toll-free number to deal with complaints of irregularities and corruption in welfare delivery. On Tuesday, the chief minister warned Trinamul representatives in a televised address to refund any “cuts” extorted from the beneficiaries. Agitations have sprouted in parts of the state since then for the refund of the bribes, embarrassing Trinamul.

But Mamata seems to have decided to take the bull by the horns. At a meeting held at Trinamul Bhavan on Friday to analyse the general election results in Nadia, Mamata said that even MPs and MLAs would not be spared.

“Our economic offences wing is stronger than before; we have the means to act. We’ll verify and act on any complaint of cut money, commissions, misappropriation of funds and other financial irregularities. However big the accused — MLA, MP — none will be spared,” a source quoted her as saying.

“I will get the police to act sternly and immediately. Enough is enough.”

Party sources said the leaders in Sainthia had sensed her resolve and held Thursday night’s meeting.

A group of beneficiaries had demonstrated in front of a local party leader’s home on Thursday morning and later gheraoed Ward 10 councillor Manas Singha, demanding the return of “cut money”.

These agitators were called to the party’s town committee office, where the beneficiaries handed Trinamul leaders a list of 55 people who were allegedly forced to pay bribes to secure houses under the Yojana.

Singha said he had never demanded or accepted bribes from any beneficiary. “If any other leader has done so, the party will act.”

Several beneficiaries of the central housing scheme in Sainthia claim to have paid between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000 to local Trinamul politicians.

“We told the leaders we want refunds. They said the complaints would be verified and action taken. If they don’t act, we will lodge police complaints,” said Manik Das, a Yojana beneficiary.

Dutta, the Trinamul town president in Sainthia, said: “We have sought two days from the complainants to look into the matter as the municipal chairman is out of town.”

Municipal chairman Biplab Dutta said he would be back by Sunday and look into the complaints. “If any of our leaders is involved, the party will act,” he said.