Kolkata: Demand for return of “cut money” is fast turning out to be the epicentre of the bitter political battle between the ruling Trinamool Congress and its main rival BJP in Bengal. Cut money is the kickback politicians took from beneficiaries in exchange of doles handed out through government schemes. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had warned party leaders last week that anyone caught taking a bribe would be arrested. This has enthused people to resort to demonstrations to get back their “hard-earned money”.
Trilochan Mukherjee, a Trinamool Congress leader returned Rs 1,617 to 141 villagers. Reportedly, locals had staged a demonstration outside Mukherjee’s house two days earlier, demanding that he return the “cut money”. “I have apologised to the people and returned the money, I promise I won’t do it again”, Mukherjee said. It all began only after BJP bagged 18 of 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal that people dared to raise voice against the “cut money”. The clamour for refund has forced Trinamool netas to seek police protection. Posters are put up against big leaders like urban development minister Firhad Hakim and minister from Hooghly Tapan Dasgupta.
The row made its way to the assembly with the opposition demanding the government set up a panel to look into the complaints. The CM said her government received 5,913 cut money complaints, of which 60% has been addressed. People are mobbing houses of councillors and MLAs, asking them to return the money they took from beneficiaries against allotment of rural houses, subsidised e-rickshaws and other welfare schemes. Such complaints are pouring in from Birbhum, Midnapore, Hooghly, Purulia and pockets of Howrah. The troubled spots are mainly from those areas where BJP has won seats or has substantially improved its vote share. Notably, in most cases, the “cut money” stir is being spearheaded by those who quit Trinamool to join BJP. These people were in the “system” and are well aware of who all took the “cut money.” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said this was just the beginning. “In the coming days, senior TMC ministers and leaders will also return cut money taken from the people,” he added.