New Delhi: Union Minister Babul Supriyo has attacked the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal, alleging that the chief minister promoted ‘cut money’ to such an extent, that her partymen are now fleecing even vegetable vendors.
‘Cut money’ is a colloquial term to describe extortion by level party functionaries and local panchayat and block panchayat members.
“She has promoted syndicate raj and now her party seeks a cut in every scheme,” Supriyo told ThePrint in an interview.
“Her ministers even make money from onion and potato supply, both of which are commonly used by people. Vendors have to pay a cut in selling and even in renting shops.”
The BJP has fielded Supriyo from the Tollygunge assembly seat in the West Bengal elections. He is up against sitting MLA Aroop Biswas, who is considered a close aide of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Of his constituency, Supriyo said, “There is one of her (Mamata’s) right-hand men who is fighting from this seat but he is famous for the cut money business.”
He added that the assembly elections will be one fought on a corruption versus good governance narrative.
“This election is between a regime of corruption and syndicates and the promise of good governance and development,” he said. “People have to choose whether they are happy in a situation where there is a party cut for everything.”
The union minister further said that people are fed up with the chief minister’s “governance of intimidation and corruption”.
“People want freedom from hooligans,” he said. “In the villages, if you make noise against the TMC, they will come in the evening and beat you up.”
He also suggested that the TMC is aware that it will lose the elections.
“Didi is now speaking in incoherent voices because she fears she will lose the elections,” he said. “Everyday she stoops to a new low. We can’t compete with her in going that low. We have promised good governance with employment and reservation for women in jobs. Such a progressive government can only make value addition to Bengal’s fragile governance.”
The 50-year-old Supriyo is contesting assembly elections for the first time. The singer and actor’s constituency of Tollygunge is the cinema district of Kolkata. It houses all major studios of the Bengali film industry. Tollygunge, however, is a TMC stronghold.
CM positioning herself as Bengal’s daughter for cheap publicity
Supriyo also attacked the chief minister for positioning herself as Bengal’s daughter, saying she was doing it for cheap publicity and to gain public sympathy.
“Mamata didi is doing many things for cheap publicity and for sympathy,” he said. “She announced herself as Bengal’s daughter. If she really was Bengal’s daughter, she would never have promoted syndicates and cut money,” he said.
“Her election team has launched a campaign calling her Bengal’s daughter, not the people of the state. In 10 years of her rule, people have been suffering from misgovernance and the syndicates. Her credential as the daughter of Bengal has not helped people.
“Mamata Banerjee is doing many things for cheap publicity and BJP can’t stoop to that level,” he added. “She has taken politics to a very low level.”
BJP looking to make inroads into Bhadralok vote
Fielding Supriyo, who is the Asansol MP, is an attempt by the BJP to cut into the ‘bhadralok’ vote. ‘Bhadralok’ refers to the urban upper caste Bengali elite living in and around Kolkata.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, when the BJP made significant headway in Bengal by winning 18 of the 42 seats, all of its successes came in the state’s rural pockets. It did not win a single seat in Kolkata.
The party is now looking to change that and has targeted all 14 assembly constituencies in Kolkata by looking to woo the ‘bhadralok’.
“The Bengali bhadralok think of themselves as custodians of Bengali culture,” said a senior BJP leader. “They see Hindu nationalism as a threat to Bengali culture. We have gained in Bhawanipur, which was Mamata Banerjee’s earlier constituency, because there are many pockets of non-Bengali Hindus. But in the rest of the region, the Bengali Hindu is not drifting away from the TMC.”
The BJP leader added that the party has brought in Supriyo to fight from Tollygunge due to his film connections.
Of the other Kolkata seats, the party has fielded doctor Indranil Ghosh from Kasba, actress Payel Sarkar from Behala Purba seat, lawyer Loknath Chatterjee from Ballygunge and former deputy chief of Army Staff Lt Gen. Subrata Saha (retired) from Rashbehari.
Lt Gen. Saha is known as posterboy of the Make in India initiative in the army and is credited with the setting up of a design bureau in the force in 2016.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)