Just as political battles hot up along with rural polls in West Bengal, a report in the most circulated regional daily Anandabazar Patrika has caused major discomfort for the Left Front.
According to the article, two senior Communist Party of India-Marxist leaders -- state secretary Biman Bose and politburo member Nirupam Sen -- deposited Rs 16 crore in a public sector bank account in their name.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Saturday her government would inquire into the source of funds allegedly held by the two CPI-M leaders.
Banerjee also questioned how Bose could have a ‘personal account’ with Rs 16 crore in it when he did not even possess a permanent account number card and was only a party whole-timer.
"We will probe the source of this money. Where did this come from? Did it fall from the skies?" the chief minister remarked.
Iterating that the account was with a public sector bank, she said: "Why is the central government silent? In other cases they unleash the Central Bureau of Investigation. Why aren't they doing so now?”
While the Congress and the Left Front have been hurling one allegation after another at the Trinamool Congress in the backdrop of the Saradha chit fund scam, it is natural that the TMC will harp on this Rs 16-crore deposit and make it a big election issue.
Meanwhile, according to several newspaper reports, Bose admitted that parking party funds in personal accounts in his name and that of Sen was a ‘mistake’.
"We did not know that this was improper. It was a mistake on our part. The bank too never told us”, he told the media.
"The letter for opening the account was given on the party letterhead. We came to know in June that it was wrong. Soon thereafter, we wrote to the bank to transfer the funds in the account into a new account in the name of the party state committee," Bose clarified.
According to Left Front sources, Bose and former state party secretary Sailen Dasgupta were the original joint holders of the account.
After Sailen Dasgupta’s demise in 2001, Sen's name was included in the account.
As for source of the money, Bose told the media that the state committee collected Rs 45 lakh from members every month. The party also gets monies from the members of Parliament and legislators.
The amount collected through special fund drives make their way into the account as well.
Bose also said that the party has 314,457 members and collects a fee of Rs 2 from each member every month. This amounts to Rs 628,914.
According to a Times of India report, the state economic offences wing has taken up the issue and is trying to find out whether the deposits reflected in CPI-M’s audited accounts submitted to the Election Commission till 2012.
Officers will also look at the source of the funds as Sen, in his affidavit while filing nomination for 2011 assembly polls, had claimed he had Rs 36 lakh as bank deposits.
While providing details about the source of Rs 16 crore, Bose took a dig at TMC while he stated, “A party as disorganised as the TMC may not understand the process of levy collection, etc.”
However, such an argument cannot smother an obvious question -- how could a party as regimented as the CPI-M make such a blatant mistake and deposit party funds in some members’ personal accounts?
Image: CPI-M leaders Biman Bose and Nirupam Sen