The Trinamool Congress is, once again, buffeted by allegations of large-scale corruption involving its senior, mid-level and even junior functionaries.
On the eve of the crucial Panchayat polls in Bengal, the ruling party is desperately fending off charges of grave wrongdoings and corruption by its functionaries in various centrally-sponsored development schemes and projects.
Large-scale violations of norms in drawing up the list of beneficiaries of the housing scheme for the poor — (PMAY) — and implementation of the (MGNREGA) by Trinamool functionaries, especially in the rural areas, have now been exposed.
A huge number of Trinamool leaders in the rural areas stand accused of including ineligible persons, including their family members, in the lists of PMAY beneficiaries.
The list of PMAY beneficiaries in Bengal has been found to be full of affluent persons with links to the ruling party as well as children, spouses and close relatives of Trinamool functionaries.
Similarly, Trinamool functionaries in rural bodies stand accused of rigging the lists of MGNREGA beneficiaries, creating fake job cards and falsifying records of assets created under the scheme to syphon off funds, and many other anomalies.
Central audit teams detected these large-scale anomalies and corruption, following which the union government suspended disbursal of funds.
Though Mamata Banerjee tried to accuse the union government of discriminating against Bengal by not giving the state its due share of funds under centrally-sponsored schemes, the truth — that funds disbursal was suspended due to large-scale anomalies by Trinamool functionaries — was soon out in the open.
But this widespread corruption by Trinamool functionaries was not limited to centrally-sponsored schemes and projects alone. A number of Mamata Banerjee’s own welfare schemes and projects, including her doles to various sections of Bengal’s poverty-stricken masses were found with anomalies.
All this has triggered a groundswell of resentment against the Trinamool. Alarmed that this would affect the party’s performance in the forthcoming panchayat polls in the state, the Trinamool chief and her nephew, Abhishek Banerjee, have been frantically trying to distance themselves from their corrupt party colleagues.
Abhishek Banerjee has publicly asked a few Panchayat functionaries belonging to his party who have been accused of corruption to step down.
Mamata Banerjee has termed the corrupt within her party as “vermin” who need to be rooted out to save the party.
But though some heads may roll, and the Trinamool top leadership may succeed once again in fooling the people of the state by distancing itself from the corrupt within the party’s ranks, corruption and extortion have become too endemic within the party to be rooted out.
This is not the first time that largescale allegations of corruption have rocked the Trinamool. Mamata Banerjee has acknowledged this in the past. But she has not been able to do anything much about it.
This, too, won’t be the last time that the Trinamool has been battered by largescale allegations of corruption within its ranks.
Here are some of the reasons for this:
The Trinamool is populated almost wholly by rent-seekers: They are in the party for their own gains. It will be impossible for Mamata Banerjee or her nephew to root them out without causing irreparable damage to their party.
The Trinamool is not rooted in any ideology: No ideology binds party functionaries and workers together towards a common goal. Overriding lust for power and pelf has become the DNA of a majority of Trinamool functionaries who are in the party to enjoy the loaves of office. The only ‘ideology’ that binds the partymen together is their common lust for power and properties.
The Trinamool has to maintain a large standing army of musclemen: These musclemen help the party win elections in the state. Bengal has been notorious since the days of Left misrule for rigged elections and, like the Left in the past, the Trinamool too is dependent on these musclemen to deliver favourable poll outcomes.
Acute unemployment and rampant poverty in Bengal: Especially in the rural areas, it makes a significant number of the unemployed as well as those engaged in petty vocations and trades, dependent on the ruling party for handouts.
Trinamool leaders have to disburse funds and favours to this huge mass of people to keep them happy, or they won’t win elections. And the only way in which the Trinamool leaders can have funds for such disbursals is by skimming money off government schemes and projects, and committing anomalies in the implementation of such schemes and projects.
Politics is the only viable ‘vocation’ for many in Bengal: Bengal is the only state where the ruling party has a large number of unemployed, or unemployable, and people engaged in petty trades or low-paying jobs, as full-time and active members. They need to be sustained by the ruling party and the only way that can be done is by ill-gotten money.
What, thus, follows from the above is that if Mamata Banerjee and her nephew try to root out the corrupt from their party, the Trinamool will collapse like a house of cards.
An overwhelming majority of Trinamool functionaries and workers are in the party for their own gains, and without them the party will not exist.
BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar says that corruption is in the DNA of the Trinamool. “Mamata Banerjee simply cannot afford to flush out the corrupt within her party. She will be left with no one then,” he told Swarajya.
This is echoed by state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. “All this talk by Mamata Banerjee and her nephew of zero tolerance towards corruption is just an eyewash. If they are to act against the corrupt within the party, the party itself will dissolve,” said Chowdhury, who is also the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha.
CPI(M) leader and former Lok Sabha MP Sujan Chakraborty is more forthcoming. “If Mamata Banerjee is serious about tackling corruption, she should start with her own family. Everyone in Bengal knows about the huge properties amassed by her close relatives in Bhowanipore and Kalighat areas of Kolkata,” said Chakraborty.
What is, thus, very clear is that tackling corruption within the ranks of the Trinamool is an impossible task. The few heads rolling now are only hogwash and things will get back to their murky state once the panchayat elections are over.
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