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regular-article-logo Sunday, 14 July 2024

Budget session: Bengal Assembly set for CAG, funds freeze storm

The stage was set on Sunday with Trinamul leader Kunal Ghosh dismissing the CAG claim that Bengal had failed to furnish utilisation certificates for funds of Rs 2.29 lakh crore, and MP Derek O’Brien raising the issue of the central funds freeze

Meghdeep Bhattacharyya, Saibal Gupta Calcutta Published 05.02.24, 05:35 AM
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee. File Photo

The Bengal Assembly’s budget session, beginning Monday, is set to witness stormy exchanges with the BJP planning to cite a CAG report to allege a “mother of all scams” worth Rs 2 lakh crore, and Trinamul attacking the Centre for withholding Bengal’s legitimate funds.

The stage was set on Sunday with Trinamul leader Kunal Ghosh dismissing the CAG claim that Bengal had failed to furnish utilisation certificates for funds of Rs 2.29 lakh crore, and MP Derek O’Brien raising the issue of the central funds freeze.

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“There is false and malicious propaganda that the Bengal government has not submitted utilisation certificates,” Ghosh, Trinamul state general secretary, said.

“Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter…. The (CAG) report talks about the 2002-03 to 2020-21 cycle. But till 2010-11, the Left was in power in Bengal. The Trinamul Congress cannot take responsibility for that period.”

On Friday, Mamata had blamed Modi and the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) for the Centre stopping the funds flow to Bengal, signalling that central deprivation would be Trinamul’s main campaign plank for the general election.

She has also accused the CAG of falsely accusing her government of delaying utilisation certificates.

“Our government has submitted all utilisation certificates for central funds, in keeping with the given protocols, to the respective departments within the specified timeline. It was because we sent the certificates that the next tranche of funds was released,” Ghosh said.

“Most importantly, the issue of utilisation certificates was not raised by the central officers during the meeting with state government officials.”

Trinamul sources said Mamata had referred to the CAG as Modi had apparently asked her party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, to go through the CAG report when he approached the Prime Minister with a request to clear Bengal’s dues.

“It is unfortunate that some of the statements in the CAG report are being deliberately twisted by Opposition leaders to engage in malicious propaganda. We strongly condemn this,” Ghosh said.

“The Trinamul Congress will not take responsibility for the Left’s lack of accountability during their regime as we have followed all protocols when we came to power.”

Trinamul sources said that blaming Modi for the funds freeze was part of a political strategy to create pressure on the Prime Minister — through a large campaign across the state — to come clean on the issue.

O’Brien, Trinamul’s leader in the Rajya Sabha, harped on the same theme, referring to Mamata’s announcement on Saturday that her government would pay the wage dues of nearly 21 lakh 100-day job scheme workers. These workers have not been paid since January 2023 because of the Centre’s stoppage of funds.

“(Saturday) was one of the biggest days in the history of India for federalism. The announcement made by the chief minister of Bengal will combat the BJP’s fiscal federal terrorism that involves depriving Bengal of its rightful due,” O’Brien said.

The state BJP, on the other hand, plans to “unleash hell” on the government benches during the budget session, which the chief minister is likely to join after returning from Delhi on Thursday.

Since 2021, the Bengal BJP has developed a track record of being disruptive and non-participative inside the House during sessions, and causing ructions outside.

State BJP sources said the party’s MLAs would insist on the CAG report being presented in the Assembly and discussed, besides demanding a statement from Mamata on a clutch of issues including the CAG report and the alleged collapse of law and order.

Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari, who skipped Friday’s all-party meeting called by Speaker Biman Banerjee as well as the business advisory committee meeting, said the BJP would engage with the government during the budget session to emphasise issues “relevant to the welfare” of the common people.

“Our legislators will meet at 10am on Tuesday and decide our floor strategy. We will demand that the state government table the CAG report and initiate a discussion on it,” Adhikari said.

“The budget will be placed on Thursday, and the next two days have been kept for discussions. Our legislators will take part in the discussions and highlight issues related to the people.”

To counter the Trinamul charges of central deprivation, the BJP will accuse the state government of trying to “impede” central projects aimed at the “welfare” of the people.

“We will reply to the chief minister in the same manner as she responds to our demands,” Adhikari said.

Adhikari left for Delhi on Sunday to attend meetings with his national leadership on Monday.

He is likely to participate in a strategy meeting with Union home minister Amit Shah, and may play a role in countering Mamata’s statements during her Delhi visit, starting Monday.

Trinamul has repeatedly accused the BJP of indulging in theatrics and aggression in the House under Adhikari’s leadership without actually participating in the legislative processes.

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