Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee on Friday warned party leaders that those involved in taking "cut money" from government schemes and other corrupt practices would be put behind bars. The warning from the West Bengal chief minister came at an organisational meeting of Nadia district, where the TMC lost one of the two Lok Sabha seats to the BJP.
"Our party supremo has warned us against getting involved in corruption and told us to return cut money, if we had taken any from people. She has told us if anyone is found seeking cut money to provide benefits from government schemes, he or she will be arrested," a senior TMC leader from Nadia district said.
Banerjee's instructions to party leaders came in the wake of statewide protests outside residences of a number of TMC leaders by people, who sought the return of cut money taken by them in the area.
Mostly, elected representatives at the municipal and panchayat levels faced the public ire in the districts of Birbhum, Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, Burdwan, Malda, Purulia, Nadia, West Midnapore and Bankura.
At a recent meeting, Banerjee had said, "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." Her diktat did not go down well with the rank and file of the party as several councillors and party leaders are questioning the directive.
"It is a sort of insult. If we had taken any cut money then we had also given a major chunk of it to top party leaders. What about that? Will they also return that money," said a senior TMC leader from Nadia district. Trinamool Congress MP Satabdi Roy said Banerjee should have initiated measures to stop the practice much earlier.
"A person who has taken cut money directly, is only the front man. There are others who are behind him. They have also taken their share, so the money has to be returned according to this chain," Roy said in New Delhi on Thursday.
Meanwhile, during the Nadia district organisational meeting, Banerjee asked party leaders to refrain from infighting and work unitedly.
"Didi has asked us to work unitedly and has given us one-month time to bounce back in the district. During the meeting, she rebuked a few senior district leaders for being involved more in infighting than working for the party," a senior TMC MLA said. She told the "traitors" to leave the party rather than weakening it from inside.
The TMC chief held a two-hour-long closed-door meeting with the district unit leaders, after it lost the Ranaghat Lok Sabha seat to the Bharatiya Janata Party and just managed to win the Krishnanagar Lok Sabha seat. The TMC chief also hit out at a section of the party leaders who had "surrendered" to the lure of money given by the BJP and sabotaged the party's prospects.
She told TMC workers to prepare for the 2021 assembly elections and bring back the old-timers to the party fold, the leader said.