Kolkata: West Bengal is close to a year away from Assembly elections and the battle lines are already drawn between the BJP and TMC over various issues. One of them is the protest over the past two weeks over relief money reaching families of those affected by Cyclone Amphan, which caused damage in 6 districts on May 20th.
Clashes between people affected by the cyclone and the district and block level administrators have been taking place mainly in South 24 Parganas district which is the worst affected by the cyclone, parts of North 24 Parganas district, Hoogly and East Midnapore district. One such instance is a case in Sandeshkhali in South 24 Parganas district under Nazat Police station where clashes broke out on Friday night and were seen again the following morning.
Clashes broke out with Trinamool Congress(TMC) supporters where women and children were also injured where bamboo sticks and iron rods were used resulting in a total of 12 people being injured. “They beat us up. Children were not spared. We were caught in between clashes of both TMC and BJP. TMC supporters are threatening us. They beat us with rods and bamboo sticks,” said Deepa Chaki, who was injured in the incident.
While the BJP has lashed out at the ruling party, the TMC leadership has suspended it’s panchayat level workers in various districts after reports of such incidents emerged. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said, “We are transparent, we are not hiding anything. We got funds of Rs.1500 crore and we have used it. For Amphan we got Rs.40 crore and we have already spent Rs 6400 crore, some of which we got from people donating funds. Both the funds will continue, these funds are all for the people and will not be used for anything else. It will get audited also, the finance department is taking care of everything.”
The assessment report of the Inter-Ministerial Central Team(IMCT), said damages worth Rs 1,02,442 crore occurred due to Cyclone Amphan in West Bengal, while 28.56 lakh houses were damaged in the state. BJP activists went to the Block Development Office(BDO) along with people affected by the cyclone and staged a protest.
The IMCT had been sent by the Centre to access the extent of damage after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had conducted an aerial view of North 24 Parganas district days after the cyclone, after which he announced an initial grant of Rs.1000 crore. PM Modi was accompanied by Mamata and West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar. A month after the disaster, Governor Dhankhar tweeted on the issue related to relief money being siphoned off allegedly by the TMC leaders at the Panchayat and block level and brought it to the notice of the TMC administration.
The issue can be seen as yet another flashpoint between the Governor and Mamata who are constantly at loggerheads on various issues. However, TMC has already been slapped with the corruption tag in the past, including the cut money issue and the party is not taking the current issue lightly. Knowing that this will be ammunition for the BJP to make it’s case stronger against the ruling party, the tussle for victory in the 2021 Assembly elections is of prime focus for both the TMC holding onto its bastion and the saffron party inching its way further into the Eastern state.