On the eve of the third phase of the Assembly elections, West Bengal Housing Minister and senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Gautam Deb on Tuesday submitted documents to the Election Commission (EC) in support of his allegation that the Trinamool Congress was using black money to fund its election expenses.
He also filed a complaint, along with documents as evidence, alleging that a section of the media was indulging in “paid news”.
Mr. Deb's complaint came on the day that a Bengali daily published a front-page lead story accusing the Minister, who is also the Chairman of the West Bengal Housing and Infrastructure Development Corporation, of being involved in a Rs.300 crore scam — a report that he claimed was “not only completely false, but malicious too.”
He expressed apprehensions about the impact it would have on the polls to be held on Wednesday as Mr. Deb was a candidate from the Dum Dum constituency. Since restrictions on campaigning were in force, he could not counter the charge by organising a rally or distributing leaflets.
“I have told the Election Commission, I am a candidate; what protection can you give me against this kind of false news,” Mr. Deb told journalists after meeting with the State's Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta.
Mr. Deb alleged that several media houses had been bought over by owners of chit funds, who were pumping black money into them “as they wanted to ensure the defeat of the Left Front.”
Mr. Deb has been asked to meet the full bench of the EC when it visits the city on April 28.
He had submitted evidence, he said, in connection with his allegations that 225 candidates of the Trinamool had accepted Rs.15 lakh each.
“The Election Commission should already have taken action based on the media reports on the matter, instead of delaying the investigation because of paperwork…. Loss of time means loss of purpose,” Mr. Deb said.
There had been several instances, in the past, of the EC taking suo motu cognisance of malpractices and initiating inquiries.
Mr. Deb said it was the responsibility of the EC to start inquiries immediately into the money deposited in the accounts of the 225 Trinamool candidates.
“Inquiries should be held into when money was deposited into their accounts…. The responsibility to inquire is not mine as I am the complainant. That I can prove it is another matter. The responsibility to inquire is that of the Election Commission”, Mr Deb said.