Kolkata, July 21 : Notwithstanding the opposition’s strident attack on the sales proceeds of her paintings during the Lok Sabha poll campaign, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Monday said she would pen books and take to the canvas yet again to fund her party’s election expenses in the coming years. “I openly tell people ‘don’t give money for running my government’. I don’t take money from people. If election comes I will again write and draw,” Banerjee said at a rally here.
Opposition parties, including the Congress, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Bharatiya Janata Party, had earlier raised queries over the sale of one of Banerjee’s paintings allegedly for Rs.1.80 crore. While then BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had questioned Banerjee about the painting being sold for the exorbitant price, CPI-M leader Gautam Deb alleged the artwork was purchased by Saradha scam purported kingpin Sudipta Sen. Responding to the criticism, Banerjee said: “Some people ask me why I sell my paintings? Then what should I sell, money?”
She said her party has for long demanded electoral reforms so that the Election Commission can bear the poll expenses. “You have taken crores (of rupees) for running advertisement campaigns. It has been our long standing demand that electoral reforms be carried out so that the Election Commission can bear the poll expenses. No party will then need to take money from anyone. But till that is done, how will my party meet the cost of posters and campaigning?
“During the Lok Sabha poll campaign, several people wanted to give us money for running our campaign. But I said ‘no’. I told them if I am in dire straits, I will turn to them in future. But this time I told them to let my party run the campaign facing hardship. I will draw, paint. Otherwise, how will we bear the huge expenses?” she said.
Taking a jibe at the Left, who were ousted from power in 2011 after running the state for 34 years at a stretch, Banerjee said they were now suffering for not going through financial hardship during their days at the helm. She also used the occasion to warn her party leaders and workers not to go astray.
“We don’t commit wrongs. We won’t let anybody commit any wrong. We want Trinamool to stay rooted to the ground. I want our people to stay rooted to the ground, and emerge as leaders on the strength of their work, and not by lobbying,” she said at the mammoth rally here. “I tell my workers, those who work silently in villages, or remote areas, we will definitely spot them. At the same time if anybody does anything wrong, we will keep a watch, and won’t allow that. We will take action,” said Banerjee.
The Trinamool supremo announced that her party would organise another big rally at the sprawling Brigade Parade ground here January next. Describing Trinamool as the country’s future, she said: “We will restore Bengal to its former glory, and show the way to the nation.” Known for her fiery speeches in the past, the feisty leader’s address at the rally appeared lacking in sting and bite and she refrained from making any scathing criticism of her bete noire – the CPI-M-led Left Front.
Though she came down hard on the media, the attack on the BJP also came at the fag end of her speech when she referred to the hike in fuel prices and train fares and accused the party of saying one thing before the elections and doing the opposite after coming to power. She also prophesied that the BJP, which won two seats from the state n the recent general elections, would be reduced to zero in the next poll.