Darjeeling BJP MP Raju Bista’s assertion that he was instrumental in halting the allocation of funds under the 100-day work scheme in the hills triggered sharp reactions from the Trinamul Congress and the Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM), which accused the legislator of depriving the region of central grants.
Trinamul and the BGPM headed by Anit Thapa are allies in the hills.
While touring some tea estates in the Mirik subdivision on Saturday, Bista had alleged that funds provided under the MGNREGS had been siphoned off in the hills.
“In the GTA area, around Rs 319 crore provided for the scheme has been misappropriated. It was done by making fake job cards, fake completion certificates and fake invoices. There was a concentrated effort to build a narrative that I had halted the funds’ release. Let me clearly say that I did it because of corruption,” the MP said.
The Bengal government has cancelled one lakh fake job cards in Darjeeling, 59,000 in Kalimpong, and 57,000 fake cards in Siliguri, Bista claimed.
The remarks, political have observers said, are part of an attempt by Bista to exert pressure on the BGPM and Trinamul, the parties which are in power at the GTA, particularly because panchayat elections are drawing near.
In the hills, panchayat polls are likely to be held this year, after a gap of over 20 years.
Trinamul and Thapa’s party, on the other hand, are desperate to prove that the BJP is holding up funds for the hills like other parts of the state. Earlier, leaders of Mamata Banerjee’s party and the chief minister herself had accused BJP leaders like Suvendu Adhikari and Dilip Ghosh of approaching the Centre to stop releasing funds for various schemes in Bengal.
“The Darjeeling MP has openly claimed that the Centre has stopped releasing funds for 100-days-work for the people here because of him. We condemn such a statement. It is evident that the MP has joined the bandwagon of his party leaders who, despite being elected by the people of this state, have tried to deprive them of the benefits of welfare schemes,” said Papia Ghosh, the president of Darjeeling (plains) district Trinamul.
Soon after, Trinamul flagged the issue on social media and tossed a question at the Prime Minister.
“In their mission to capture the political landscape in Bengal, have the @BJP4India lost all shame? MP @RajuBistaMP proudly states that in the GTA area, he has stopped all MGNREGS payments and will soon do the same for Jal Jeevan Mission. Why stoop so low, PM @NarendraModi?” read a tweet posted by the party.
Thapa, too, trained his guns on the MP.
“Thousands of people in rural areas across the hills have worked under the (MGNREGS) scheme and yet, they have not been paid. Ideally, their wages should have been transferred to the bank accounts. Should we say now that the MP has siphoned off their wages and hence, they have not received them?” said Thapa.