In what has become an annual feature, the government of West Bengal has today awarded a grant of Rs 50,000 to all 36,000 Durga Puja clubs in the state, including 2,500 in Kolkata alone.
Unlike in the past, the announcement was not made by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, but by her Chief Secretary HK Dwivedi. This was clearly due to the fact that the Bhabanipur assembly’s poll, which it contests, is scheduled for September 30, along with elections for two other seats in the assembly.
However, the BJP is outraged by the announcement.
A delegation from the party met the Chief Election Officer in Kolkata and complained about the alleged violation of the model code of conduct. It will discuss the matter with the election commission tomorrow.
Chief Secretary Dwivedi announced the award of Rs 50,000 during a function at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Indoor Stadium in Kolkata before Ms Banerjee took the podium for the event.
“The Chief Secretary has told you everything. Because the Model Code of Conduct is in effect, he has made the government announcement as is the practice,” she said in a carefully worded speech.
“I have talked to him about it. I understand that the same things announced last year will also apply this year.”
However, sources in the BJP said the Chief Secretary making the announcement did not mean that the poll code had not been violated.
“The distribution policy that the Trinamool is doing… that’s what has been done. It’s a violation of the model code. We want the CEO to take appropriate action. Tomorrow we will go to the EC office,” said Vice-President of the BJP state. Pratap Banerjee.
A letter from the party to the Chief Election Officer states that “this was done to influence the electoral process”.
Ms Banerjee, meanwhile, repeatedly said that the program to announce the grant was organized “with permission”.
“We had to do it before the elections because after that it would be too late to prepare for Covid management at Durga Puja pandals,” she said.
The election director has yet to comment on the matter.
Ms Banerjee has had to challenge the bypolls since losing the Nandigram seat in the Assembly polls in May to her former aide and BJP candidate Suvendu Adhikari. He is now the state leader of the opposition.