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Didi rebuts PM's graft charges: CM trots out housing numbers to counter funds-freeze defence

Elections will come and elections will go. We are here to stay. Not these babus from Delhi, said Mamata

Meghdeep Bhattacharyya Calcutta Published 05.03.24, 06:56 AM
Mamata Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee File image

Mamata Banerjee on Monday rebutted several corruption allegations — momentarily losing her temper while doing so — that were levelled by Narendra Modi last weekend, in his defence of keeping central dues to Bengal frozen, and demanded forgiveness be sought from the state's people.

In her first public appearance since her Friday tete-a-tete with the Prime Minister, the chief minister dismissed his allegations.

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“Our Prime Minister said he had sent Rs 47,000 crore to Bengal, and we supposedly ate it all up, instead of delivering services and houses to the people. I am going to set the record straight here, clarify these numbers now. Should anyone have any doubt regarding these figures, please challenge them. I am speaking on behalf of the government and not the party,” said Mamata at a state government event in Tamluk.

“Some people arrive from Delhi during the election seasons. They cannot be seen otherwise, round the year. They keep advertising about delivering (services)… while we are the ones who pay for the schemes,” she added, in an oblique reference to Modi. “Elections will come and elections will go. We are here to stay. Not these babus from Delhi.”

Central deprivation, or “step-motherly” treatment of Bengal by the BJP-led Centre is a principal poll plank for Mamata this general election.

At Arambagh on Friday, Modi had accused Trinamul of obstructing development through central schemes, and central agencies when they tried to probe irregularities.

He had accused her of protecting the corrupt and her government of plundering through misappropriation of central funds meant for welfare schemes, and justified as a “righteous fight” the freezing of the funds, two-and-a-half months after he purportedly assured a Mamata-led delegation in Delhi to work towards the release of over Rs 1.6 lakh crore in frozen funds.

“Modi got houses made for more than four crore poor families. They received their houses, and have been celebrating Diwali, Holi and Durga Puja there. The Union government had approved 45 lakh beneficiaries in Bengal and Rs 42,000 crore had been released for it. But the state government is obstructing the work on housing for the poor,” he had said. “Can Trinamul make these houses? If there is anyone who can get this done, it is Modi and the BJP.”

On Monday, Mamata said there are numerous schemes under which the Centre is bound to give funds to the state, and that between 2014-15 and 2021-22, the Centre had given Rs 29,834 crore under the Awas Yojana, while the state government spent Rs 20,000 crore.

“More importantly, from 2021-22 to 2023-24, they did not give one paisa,” she said.

“Instead, they alleged the money given by them was eaten up by us and no houses were built… 43 lakh houses have been built!” yelled a visibly furious Mamata. “Answer! Respond (to this)! Either admit the truth or say that you have lied… seek forgiveness from people!”

Regaining composure after an eight-second pause, Mamata went on to say how the Centre did not release funds for 11 lakh houses for which clearances had been given.

Mamata said the number of unpaid MGNREGS workers is not 21 lakh, as estimated initially, but 59 lakh, and said their dues were being cleared from the state exchequer.

“People are being called and threatened that if they do not join the BJP, the ED will be sent to their homes,” said Mamata at the event in the backyard of her bête noire, the BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, whom she accused without taking his name, of being mired in corruption, mocking him for having the gall to accuse her and her party of thievery.

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