Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday expressed her ire once again against elected representatives of the party indulging in corrupt practices and warned that those involved in taking "cut money" from beneficiaries of government schemes will be put behind bars, according to Trinamool Congress leaders.
The chief minister's stern instructions to the party leaders follow the recent reverses in Lok Sabha polls and protests by people outside residences of a number of TMC leaders in the state demanding return of the "cut money" or commission taken from them.
The West Bengal Chief Minister also asked her party leaders to introspect as she rebuked a section of them for the party's poor performance in the general elections. She asked TMC workers to prepare for the 2021 assembly elections in the state and to bring back the old-timers into the party fold, a senior leader said.
Banerjee during the meeting with West Midnapore district TMC unit accused few MLAs of not working properly in their areas and for being keen on taking commission from people for providing social and government benefits.
West Midnapore district president Ajit Maity was among those who were pulled up by the TMC supremo for the poor poll performance. The BJP has won one of the two Lok Sabha seats in the district, which was considered to be a TMC stronghold.
Banerjee also hit out at a section of TMC leaders who, she said, have "surrendered" to the BJP's "lure of the lucre" and sabotaged the party's prospects, a TMC leader who participated in the meeting said.
"Our party supremo has warned us against getting involved in corruption and told us to return cut money, if we have taken any from the people. She has told us if anyone is found seeking cut money to provide benefits from government schemes, he or she will be arrested," a senior TMC leader of West Midnapore district said.
Elected representatives at the municipal and panchayat levels have faced public ire over the issue Of cut money in West Midnapore, Bankura, Birbhum, Burdwan, Kolkata, Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, Burdwan, Malda, Purulia and Nadia districts.
"She (Banerjee) told us to devote more time to the party and build a strong mass network in our respective areas. A section of party leaders and MLAs has been asked to introspect and work as per the party guidelines or else quit TMC," the senior party leader, who was present in the meeting, said.
The TMC supremo also asked party leaders to refrain from infighting and work unitedly. "She asked traitors to leave the party rather than weaken it from inside during the two-hour-long closed-door meeting," a party MLA said.
At a recent meeting with party councillors earlier this month, Banerjee had said, "I do not want to keep thieves in my party. Some leaders are claiming 25 per cent commission for providing housing grants to the poor. This should stop immediately. Return the money if any of you have taken it."
She had also said in the Assembly on Wednesday that there is nothing wrong if she tries to discipline her party workers and that no one had the right to malign them without evidence.
The TMC leadership had on Sunday accused the media of misreporting the interactions between Banerjee and the party leaders and said "99.99 per cent" of party functionaries were hard-working and committed to work for the benefit of the people.
Following protests by the people, a TMC panchayat leader of Suri in Birbhum district had this week returned Rs 2.28 lakh he had taken as commission to over 140 beneficiaries of government schemes.
The BJP has made major inroads in West Bengal in the recent Lok Sabha elections, winning 18 seats, just four less that the TMC. The saffron party had accused the TMC of running "syndicate raj" in the state.