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‘Cut money’ scandal: After Mamata Banerjee admits Trinamool members were taking bribes, public attacks party leaders

It appears Mamata Banerjee's carefully constructed 'Syndicate Raj' is falling like a pack of cards.

When Mamata Banerjee had remarked recently that ‘cut money’ taken by members of her own party, for implementing the welfare schemes of the government, ought to be returned to the public, she clearly had no idea that she was opening a Pandora’s box.

“I do not want to keep thieves in my party. If I take action they will join some other party. Some leaders are claiming 25 per cent commission for providing housing grants to the poor. This should stop immediately. Return the money if any of you have taken it,” Banerjee had said.

As a consequence of her remarks, people across the state are up in arms against the elected Trinamool representatives and leaders in the area, demanding the return of the money they had paid as bribes. The crowd forced Trinamool leaders to declare in writing that they will return the money. One even admitted that he had charged between Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 from the beneficiaries of welfare schemes.

The controversy has now hit the Bengal Assembly with Opposition leaders demanding answers from the Chief Minister herself. An inquiry into the whole matter has also been demanded. “The issue needs to be probed by an inquiry commission and the state government should immediately set up one to investigate the matter. We also demand a statement from the chief minister on the floor of the House,” Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Abdul Mannan said.

Meanwhile, the state government has asked the Police to persuade people to lodge complaints in the matter. It believes that the agitating crowd will be pacified once the complaints are lodged and the Police starts acting on them.

“Once the complaints are lodged, the civil administration can inquire as these are mainly on schemes run by panchayats or civic bodies. In case of any anomaly, the police will lodge formal complaints and initiate action against the accused,” Gyanwant Singh, the ADG (law and order), said.

“If the culprits are booked, the ruling party will be able to send a message against corruption. Anger at the grassroots had damaged Trinamool in the general election,” an official told The Telegraph.

It appears that the move which Mamata Banerjee expected would work in her favour by augmenting her anti-corruption image has backfired massively. People have attacked the houses of Trinamool leaders over the matter and gheraoed them. In one such incident, the house of TMC deputy pradhan of Mangalkot in Burdwan, Binay Chakraborty, was attacked by the public, his car was vandalized and he was forced to flee and take shelter elsewhere.

In Birbhum, a pregnant TMC leader had to flee fearing for her life and that of her unborn child. Similar incidents have been reported elsewhere. The Trinamool, for its part, has branded it a BJP conspiracy.

“A campaign is going on to brand all public representatives as corrupt. But there are only one or two per cent of the public representatives of our party who have done this. The administration has taken action against them and will continue to do so in future,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Firhad Hakim.

The government has been forced to arrest numerous leaders from its own party as well. Sukesh Yadav, head of the Mahanandatola gram panchayat of Ratua in Malda, was arrested after he was accused of profiting Rs.1 crore from the Nirmal Bangla Mission for cleanliness. A TMC leader from Haldia was arrested on charges of corruption as well. “Milan Mondal was arrested as there were several cases pending against him, including some related to corruption,” a senior police officer told The Indian Express.

Meanwhile, Trinamool leader Trilochan Mukherjee has claimed to have returned around Rs.2.5 lakh of ‘cut money’ he had earned by extorting the beneficiaries of the NREGA scam.

The conspiracy of silence from expected quarters over the ‘Cut Money’ scandal is quite amazing. Here we have a Chief Minister who admitted that members of her party were indulging in corruption and robbing people of their money. People across the state are outraged and are attacking the homes of Trinamool leaders demanding that their money be returned. It’s complete anarchy.

Mamata Banerjee’s remarks were also an admission of the fact that her party has been running a ‘Syndicate Raj’ in the state where it was extremely difficult, if not entirely impossible, for people to benefit from welfare schemes without paying bribes. The chain of events that has followed since her statement also shows the anger that has been brewing among the people for quite a while.

Meanwhile, Trinamool leaders are blaming the BJP for the series of events which were initiated by the comments of their party supremo herself and because Trinamool leaders themselves were taking bribes. That Trinamool chose to blame the BJP instead of introspecting their own conduct over the years only goes on to show the arrogance and the sense of entitlement that has seeped within the ranks of the party. There’s also the incredulity that they could escape the consequences of their own action by pointing figures at others.

It ought to be remembered that Mamata Banerjee had blamed ‘outsiders’ and the BJP for the doctors’ strike as well which was initiated because the state police itself did not take any action to prevent mob violence by the Muslim community.

The rampant political murders, blatant minority appeasement, the ever deteriorating law and order situation, the Bengal health crisis and now the ‘cut money’ crisis, it appears Mamata Banerjee’s carefully constructed ‘Syndicate Raj’ is falling like a pack of cards. Her statement was meant to convey to the public that she was clean and intent on tackling the menace of corruption not only without but also within the ranks of her own party. However, the public was only angered even more.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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