A two-day protest by the Trinamool Congress demanding reversing of cuts in rural welfare schemes concluded with high drama. A delegation of the party’s Parliamentarians and West Bengal ministers led by national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee were dragged from Krishi Bhawan by security personnel at 9:30 pm, three hours after their scheduled appointment with Minister of State for Rural Development, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, who failed to turn up. The delegation was detained by Delhi Police.
The delegation continued to sit at the ministry’s office even after being told that Ms, Jyoti would not be able to meet them. The TMC had been told that only five persons were allowed for the meeting, the party instead turned up with 30 Parliamentarians and 10 ministers along with beneficiaries who have been denied wages under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
Minister skips meeting
The party leadership walked in carrying bundles of letters reportedly written by beneficiaries who were denied wages. Union Minister Giriraj Singh was not in town. In a post on X, Ms. Jyoti said that TMC brought their workers claiming they were beneficiaries, which was against “office rules”. “Their intention was not to meet me, but to play politics,” she said.
Earlier in the day, the party held a dharna at Jantar Mantar, where Mr. Banerjee issued an ultimatum to the government, saying that this was only the first round of protest in the Capital. “Today only 5000 people are assembled here. If the Centre fails to release pending dues within two months, over one lakh people from West Bengal will hit the streets in Delhi,” he declared. Lashing out at the union government, he said, the police have been deployed at the protest site, as if there is an “India-China” confrontation.
He also said the union government is spending thousands of crores on planes and the New Parliament Building, but is not paying dues to workers. Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah as “feudal lords” he also attacked the BJP’s state leadership holding them responsible for “snatching food from poor”.
“Those who think they can do whatever they want and block people’s dues, should accept our challenge... We have list of 2,500 MGNREGA beneficiaries who came with us here to fight, with nothing but a pair of clothes. We have their names, phone numbers, addresses, account numbers with us...” he said.
“The party will share this list with the state government, and request them to release their dues as soon as possible, even though the state govt is deprived of funds,,” Mr. Banerjee added.
The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal has accused the BJP-led NDA government of withholding Rs 15,000 crore in dues to the state under MGNREGS and PM Awas Yojana.The BJP has rejected the charge and accused the TMC of enacting a “drama” in Delhi to divert attention from the scams in West Bengal.
Black day for Indian democracy, says Abhishek Banerjee
Mr. Banerjee said October 3 incident will stand as an example of ‘New India’ where public representatives were “dragged and manhandled” by Delhi Police and journalists questioning the government were booked under the anti-terror law UAPA.
“Today is a black day for Indian democracy,” he told reporters after his release.
Mr. Banerjee, along with party lawmakers, state ministers and supporters including MGNREGA workers, protested at Jantar Mantar here, a day after they held a two-hour sit-in at the Rajghat on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary before being evicted by the police.
The TMC leaders, who had brought with them bundles of letters addressed to the Prime Minister and the rural development minister, refused to leave till the MoS met them.
Led by Mr. Banerjee, a group of TMC leaders sat on a dharna, which continued till around 9 pm, after which they were detained by the police and evicted from the ministry premises.
The Trinamool Congress claimed that the phones of some leaders were also taken by the police.
(With inputs from PTI)