Claim by Rabindranath Bhattacharya — also the Singur MLA — led to his being divested of agriculture portfolio

In a major revelation of some of the goings-on within his party that has created a political uproar here, a Minister in the Trinamool Congress government and MLA from Singur Rabindranath Bhattacharya, who was divested of the Agriculture portfolio last week, has said that responsible Trinamool workers are involved in extortion and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is well aware of it. After being shunted to the Department of Statistics and Programme Implementation in the recent reshuffle, Mr. Bhattacharya had said that he would not take the new responsibility and expressed his desire to retire from politics.

 “I have heard that Mamata is saying that party workers should not be involved in extortion and that she will sell her paintings to arrange money for the party. But there has been extortion under my very nose and money transacted before my very eyes,” Mr. Bhattacharya told certain local television channels which aired the footage on Tuesday.

‘She is upset’

  “I believe that she is aware of all this [extortion]. That is why she is upset and is raising an alarm,” he said.

 Ms. Banerjee said at a public event on November 24 that the Trinamool Congress “is not a greedy party and has no place for greed.” It did not take any money from the government or “cut-money” from individuals.

 Mr. Bhattacharya, who had played an active role in the struggle against land acquisition in Singur, said such activities by party workers were affecting his conscience.

 Referring to appointment to two posts in a local school, he said Trinamool leaders had taken money from people on the pretext of giving jobs, saying that the money was not for them but would go to the party fund.

Mr. Bhattacharya’s comments have evoked a strong response from various political parties, whose leaders said that Mr. Bhattacharya’s remarks were ‘absolutely correct’ and criticised Ms. Banerjee for turning a blind eye to such misdeeds.

“The truth”

Chairman of the State’s Left Front Committee and State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Biman Bose said Mr. Bhattacharya had spoken the truth. “That extortion is going on is clear from the repeated comments made by the Chief Minister that such practices will not be allowed. Mr. Bhattacharya is justified in what he is saying,” he said.

Pradip Bhattacharya, president of the State unit of the Congress, said a section of Trinamool leadership had no other responsibility but to extort money from the people. It comprises those who are providing shelter to extortionists and those engaged in it. “The Chief Minister has turned a blind eye to such misdeeds.”

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