TMC gives political twist to Centre-state tussle over MGNREGA fund
The West Bengal government’s ongoing tussle with the Centre over fund allocations has provided the Trinamool Congress (TMC) an opportunity to turn the heat on the BJP ahead of the panchayat elections.
The state’s ruling party hit the streets back-to-back on Sunday and Monday against the non-release of pending wage dues under the Centre’s flagship 100-day job scheme MGNREGA.
Protest programmes were held in each block against the state as the Trinamool Congress has decided to turn the tussle into a political issue, highlighting how the Centre is allegedly neglecting the state.
The party ensured participation of several MGNREGA job card holders in the protest clearly in a bid to take political mileage of the delay in wage payment.
The move comes at a time when the state government is facing allegations of misuse of funds meant for the rural employment guarantee scheme.
Following complaints of irregularities, as reported earlier by The Federal, the Rural Development ministry earlier this year had sent special teams for field visits and survey implementation of the MGNREGA schemes in the state.
The teams had unearthed some anomalies and asked the state government to file an action-taken report to the Centre.
The state government is yet to respond to the Centre’s directive, claimed BJP national vice president Dilip Ghosh.
“TMC leaders and district administrations have mastered the art of channelling MGNREGA funds into their bottomless pockets. That’s why there is such a hue and cry over the (non-release of) MGNREGA funds,” said another BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari.
The state government, however, claims that it has taken action whenever irregularities were detected. Moreover, it points out, irregularities cannot be the pretext to hold up wage payment.
Since December last year, the Centre has not released any funds to the state under the scheme, claimed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The cumulative dues of the state stand at around ₹6,500 crore-₹3,000 crore as wages and ₹3,500 crore as material cost.
As repeated requests – including a letter chief minister wrote to the prime minister—to the Centre to clear the dues went unheard the TMC plunged into action to try ensure that it does not have to bear the brunt for stalling of projects.
Taking part in the protests shouting slogans against the BJP-led central government, the TMC leaders said the objective behind the stir is to expose the Centre’s “step motherly” attitude towards Bengal.
“The Centre has unfairly withheld the state’s legitimate dues. Despite several letters (seeking release of funds), the money has not been released,” said West Bengal Urban Development Minster Firhad Hakim.
Panchayat elections in the state are due early next year. The stalling of MGNREGA scheme is expected to have its impact in the polls.
The BJP started making its presence felt in electoral politics of Bengal from the 2018 panchayat elections.
Through protest rallies, the TMC is trying to convey to the rural voters that it is the BJP which is to be blamed for the mess.
Apart from the state, the TMC is also planning to hold a protest programme over the non-payment of dues at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.