Trinamool MPs stage dharna on the need for electoral reforms and state funding of elections

Trinamool Congress MPs from both the Houses of the Parliament staged a dharna today in front of Gandhi ji’s statue in the Parliament complex on the need for electoral reform and State funding of elections.

Electoral reforms has been part of Trinamool’s DNA, its very existence, since the party was established on 1st January, 1998. In the last 18 years, the first section of every manifesto, which the Trinamool has introduced for every election, has been dedicated to electoral reforms.

Trinamool Chairperson Mamata Banerjee had earlier criticised the Centre’s move to introduce electoral bonds; she had said that a decision on political funding should have be taken after obtaining opinions of all political parties.

“There should have been discussion with all political parties on the issue of political funding, electoral bonds. They should have taken opinion of all political outfits. We have long been demanding electoral reforms and state funding of elections,” she had commented.


নির্বাচনী সংস্কারের দাবীতে সংসদ চত্বরে ধর্ণা তৃণমূল সাংসদদের

নির্বাচনী সংস্কার ও ‘স্টেট ফান্ডেড’ নির্বাচনের দাবীতে আজ তৃণমূল সাংসদরা সংসদ চত্বরে গান্ধী মূর্তির সামনে ধর্ণা দেন।

১লা জানুয়ারি ১৯৯৮ সালে দল গঠন হওয়ার সময় থেকেই নির্বাচনী সংস্কারের কথা বলে আসছে তৃণমূল। বিগত ১৮ বছর ধরে তৃণমূলের সকল নির্বাচনী ইস্তেহারের প্রথম ভাগ নির্বাচনী সংস্কারের জন্যই নির্ধারিত থাকে।

গত সপ্তাহে তৃণমূলনেত্রী মমতা বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায় কেন্দ্রীয় সরকারের ‘ইলেক্টোরাল বন্ডের’ সমালোচনা করে বলেন, “স্টেট ফান্ডেড ইলেকশন’ ও নির্বাচনী বন্ডের বিষয়ে কেন্দ্রের সব দলের সঙ্গে আলোচনা করা উচিত। আমরা দীর্ঘদিন ধরে নির্বাচনী সংস্কার ও সরকারি তহবিলে নির্বাচন লড়ার দাবী জানিয়ে এসেছি।”


BJP got billions of rupees from unknown sources: Trinamool Congress

Trinamool Congress today alleged that BJP collected billions of rupees from “unknown sources” and is now preaching about electoral reforms.

Party’s chief national spokesperson Derek O’Brien also said the Narendra Modi government’s decision to cap donations to political parties at Rs 2,000 will not solve anything. “You want electoral reforms & you bring down the minimum figure from 20,000 rupees to 2000. Won’t solve anything. Who you kidding?” he tweeted.

“And look who is preaching about electoral reforms? The party that has already picked up billions from “unknown sources,” the party’s leader in Rajya Sabha said.

On the Railway Budget, he said the “grand design” to merge it with the General Budget turned out to be a damp squib. “This will damage the very core of the transport system,” he said.


অজানা সুত্র থেকে বিজেপি কোটি কোটি টাকা পেয়েছেঃ তৃনমূল কংগ্রেস

রাজনৈতিক দলের নগদ অনুদানের ঊর্ধ্বসীমা ২০ হাজার টাকা থেকে কমিয়ে ২ হাজার টাকা করার যে সিদ্ধান্ত কাল অর্থমন্ত্রী বাজেটে ঘোষণা করলেন, তাকে কটাক্ষ করলো তৃনমূল কংগ্রেস।

তৃনমূল কংগ্রেস এর পক্ষ থেকে জাতীয় মুখপাত্র ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন বলেন সরকারের এই সিদ্ধান্তে কোনও সমাধান হবে না। তিনি টুইট করে বলেন, “আপনারা নির্বাচনী সংস্কার চান, তাই নগদ অনুদানের সীমা ২০ হাজার থেকে কমিয়ে ২ হাজার করেছেন। কিন্তু, এতে কিছু সমাধান হবে না। কাদের বোকা বানাচ্ছেন?”

ডেরেক, যিনি রাজ্যসভায় তৃণমূলের পরিষদীয় দলনেতা, বলেন, “যে দল (বিজেপি) ‘অজানা সুত্র’ থেকে কোটি কোটি টাকা পেয়েছে তারা এখন ‘নির্বাচনী সংস্কারের’ বানী শোনাচ্ছে”।

সাধারণ বাজেটের সঙ্গে রেল বাজেটের সংযুক্তিকরণকেও কটাক্ষ করেন তিনি। বলেন, সরকরের ‘মহান পরিকল্পনা’ পুরো মাঠে মারা গেল। এই পদক্ষেপের ফলে পরিবহণ ক্ষেত্রের ক্ষতি হবে।”



Vivek Gupta speaks on the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013

Corruption is probably one of those words that are most commonly understood by the Indian people. However Sir, before we start talking about the corruption we must understand that there are two different types of corruption.

One is the senior citizen who is not getting his pension, he is forced to resort to corruption to start getting this pension or the people who don’t get their ration or basic common facilities and amenities; then have to resort the corruption. We as a united country have failed to provide people some basic common necessities and which is why they have to resort to corruption.

The other is, Sir, where someone in position of power or influence uses his position to give some benefit which is not due to some group of people. It is that corruption that we should tackle and come very hardly on.

We should first look at the basic root of corruption. Sir, one of basic root of corruption is black money. And it is no secret that black money has its origins in election funding. Herein comes my party Supremo and popular leader Hon’ble Mamata Banerjee. You know she was first one to talk about electoral reforms; it is even mentioned in the election manifesto of Trinamool Congress. We believe in massive comprehensive electoral reforms drawing on international base practices so that the corrupt and criminals do not becomes the people’s representatives.

We also believe that to reach this goal of corruption free politics, time has come for the nation to adopt government funding of elections which is already functional in many nations of the world including UK, Germany, France etc .

Sir this Bill has several defects. I am just outlining a few one of them so that through you I can draw the attention of the Hon’ble Minister who, if he so wishes, correct them.

Sir, all relatives of the person have been left out. This is a very important ommission. Family and friends are one of the most important forms of the corruption that has been left out completely. They have not been included in this Bill. If I do not wish to be part of the corruption directly I can always ask to take the money or the draft to my wife or my father or my family or friend. That has been left out completely.

Sir, we have witnessed in the past that people who are sitting in eminent positions have asked the corruption to be given to the charities or to the companies they own. That also has been left out in the definition of corruption in the Bill. I would not like to take the name but a previous Election Commissioner got money from a political party into his favorite charity. After that what happened the world knows.

Sir, lobbying is a dirty word or a good word I don’t know. But lobbying activities are not at all covered. Sir, it is an open fact and open secret that lobbying takes place in India both at public policy and political levels. However it happens in hush-hush manner in the name of funding, in the name of NGOs; it is also one very effective tool used by people for corruption. Lobbying is also not included in this Bill.

Sir, recently a magazine featured an article how public servants are regularly getting free tickets of airlines and upgrades in airlines and most of these public officials belong to be ministry of civil aviation. Now it is an open understanding that it is a quid pro quo. These are also not included in the definition of corruption.

Sir there is Supreme Court case going on where a major Corporator has said that whenever a politician writes a recommendation letter we give them jobs. Now whether there is a quid pro quo involved or not that they did not spell out. But these possibilities, these definitions have not been included in the Act. Sir, I would not like to repeat but just reiterate that the post retirement posting of all people does influence these people to take their decisions.

Sir, this Bill has severely diluted the procedure to prosecute public officials. The requirement of intentional enrichment and the onus of the proof on the prosecutions will make it much more harder for advocates of anti-corruption. The prosecution will need to prove the position of unexplained assets as well as intention to enrich oneself. It may be difficult to be prove that the intention to amass wealth above the description of law.

Sir, in the previous Bill at least collusive bribery, where both parties have benefitted, and cursive bribery had a differentiation. Sir, through you I would like to draw the attention of the Hon’ble Minister that cursive bribery has been left out where citizen is compelled to give bribes. This is the one scenario I referred to in my earlier speech where the citizen is forced to pay the bribe.

Sir, towards the end of my speech, I would like to give a few quotes by Hon’ble Mamata Banerjee:

“Black Money leads to money power, money power leads to muscle power. Money and muscle power are together a toxic combination for parliamentary democracy.”

“I have referred to the 14 cases to the central agency but it did not take up those.”

Sir, the Supreme Court has referred to the CBI as a caged parrot and His Master’s Voice. Sir if a body like the Supreme Court refers to such examples that means something is wrong there. Hindi mein kehte hain bina aag ke dhuwa nahi hoti hain. So that means there is something.

Sir, what would suggest as a party is to make the CBI more powerful, more transparent and independent of its political master. Our last suggestion is to expand the definition of offences of bribery and compulsory disclosure by company’s expenditure on  bribery.

Trinamool demands setting up of Democratic Electoral Fund

Trinamool today demanded that the government should bring back whatever black money they can and use it as a corpus to set up a Democratic Electoral Fund to start the process of electoral reforms. Speaking on behalf of the party, Derek O’Brien, the leader of the party in Rajya Sabha, said that this step could go a long way in stopping the use of black money in elections.

Slamming the BJP as Bahut Jumla Promises, he pointed out the ruling party had gone back on its promise of bringing back black money. He took on the Parliamentary Affairs Minister who had sought a time-bound assurance from the previous UPA government to bring back black money. He also said that the Home Minister had promised to bring back black money within 150 days coming to power during his election campaign.

The Prime Minister, who was the Chief Campaign Officer of BJP in 2014, had said he would bring back black money and use them for social welfare, Derek said. He also took a dig at a person who had said during 2014 election campaign that Modi government would bring back Rs 1 lakh crore worth of black money in 150 days.

While Trinamool supported this Bill, Derek asked MPs not to use the term black money as it was racist; he suggested the term dirty money. He made it clear in his speech that even agencies appointed by Standing Committee on Finance have not been able to ascertain the value of black money stashed abroad.

No place for vendetta politics in democracy: Mamata Banerjee

Trinamool Chairperson Ms Mamata Banerjee today challenged the Opposition, including BJP, to fight politically instead of relying on canards and smear campaign. She was addressing a public meeting at Beleghata where she asked people to vote for development, peace and prosperity.

Paid media

Didi targeted a section of the media for always portraying Trinamool in bad light. “Even if some minor altercations happen between neighbours, they blame TMC,” she said. “This is the era of paid news. Some media houses are run by BJP, some by CPM. Crores of money were spent by some parties during Lok Sabha polls to control media,” she added.

Opposition has no work

Lashing out at the Opposition, she said, “They are jealous. Those born with silver spoon in mouth say how can a woman from a humble background run a State. I have always struggled for people. I went on 26-day hunger strike for the people of Singur. This Central Government does not care for common man. People are saying ‘kya socha tha, kya ho gaya’. Why did the BJP get a drubbing in Delhi? People from all walks of society have rejected them.”

She also slammed the CPM. “There are two types of trees: one which can stand on its own and those that are dependent on others. CPM is of the second type. CPM is dependent on BJP for its survival. Congress is non-existent. CPM, Congress and BJP speak the same language, that of slander against Mamata and her party. The Opposition has no work. They only appear on TV studios to speak ill of me,” she said.

Mamata Banerjee also targeted the CPM for raising the bogey of terror while their regime had a series of incidents of violence. “The CPM which never allowed peaceful polls in Beleghata is talking about terror now. Has the CPM forgotten about Keshpur, Garhbeta? Have they forgotten about Netai, Nandigram, Bantala, Dhantala?” she demanded to know. Our slogan was “Bodla noy bodol chai” (Change not revenge). This is our courtesy not our weakness, she added.

Sale of paintings

Regarding the attack of Opposition about the sale of her paintings, she said, “They are questioning my paintings. The money from the sale of my book ‘Upolobdhi’ was donated to the families in Amta whose hands were chopped off by CPM. Who is the Opposition to decide the value of my paintings? My paintings are sold to raise money for the party. The money is used to run election campaign. Every political party submits accounts to EC and files IT returns.”

People will teach Opposition a lesson

Didi said whenever elections come, the Opposition attacks her over the paintings. This is not even an issue, she said. “People of Bengal will teach them a lesson. Those who spent thousands of crores during Lok Sabha election are now raising questions about us. Trinamool Congress is a transparent political party,” she added.

No vendetta politics

Mamata Banerjee also challenged the Opposition to fight politically. “CBI comes under the jurisdiction of PMO. ED and IT Dept are under Finance Ministry. They want to gag our voices. It is not easy. There is no place for political vendetta in democracy. We believe in peace,” she said.

Vote for development

“The Opposition will only indulge in canards. They are expert in smear campaign, propaganda and slander. We cannot stoop to that level,” said Didi. She stressed that people have witnessed development in the last five years. She highlighted Bengal’s achievements in Kanyashree scheme, Nirmal Bangla Abhiyaan, beautification of Kolkata, reduction in water-logging. She said Kolkata was the only non-planned city to witness such large-scale development.

We demand state-funded elections: Mamata Banerjee at Barabazar

Trinamool Chairperson Ms Mamata Banerjee today started her municipal campaign by addressing a rally at Satyanarayan Park in Barabazar area.

She highlighted the cosmopolitan culture of Bengal during her speech and asked people not to vote for BJP which wants to destroy the liberal culture of the State.

People are the pillar of democracy

“In a democracy, people are our strength. We must reach out to them without arrogance. Trinamool Congress believes in free, fair, peaceful polls. People are the pillar of strength for a democracy. People are our family, doesn’t matter what your religion or language is,” she said.

The Chairperson added, “BJP wants to pit Hindus against Muslims, Christians against Hindus. They want to create fissures between people. Tyag ka naam hai Hindu, Iman ka naam hai Mussalman. Pyar ka naam hai Isai. Sikh ka naam hai balidan. Yeh hai hamara Hindustan.”

Mamata Banerjee reiterated that people cannot be fooled with lies and they will vote for development. She added that BJP, CPM and Congress were different sides of the same coin as they only engage in slander. She also slammed a few media houses for manufacturing propaganda against TMC.

TMC cannot be targeted with CBI

The Chairperson also took on the Opposition for levelling baseless charges against her regarding chit funds. She made it clear that it was TMC-led government that arrested the owner of a chit fund company from Kashmir.

She also said that just before elections, TMC is being targeted with CBI. “This is because we fight for the rights of people,” she added. “Narendra Modi can send 500 notices to TMC if he wants. We will not budge from our stand on Land Bill,” she dared the Centre.

Sale of paintings

Regarding sales of her paintings and books she said: “They are questioning my paintings and books. Who are they to ask these details? We have filed IT returns. I don’t claim to be a professional painter. I draw on canvas whatever I feel like. If people give us even one penny from their hard-earned money, it is a big blessing for us. Proceeds from the sales of my paintings and books go to the party. I don’t take a rupee. I even pay for my tea at Nabanna.”

Electoral reforms

Mamata Banerjee also called for electoral reforms, “We are a small party. We don’t have crores of rupees like other parties to launch multi-crore ad campaign. We have demanded electoral reforms since 1995. We demand state funding of elections. There is no hide and seek. Jago Bangla did an open exhibition of my paintings. They filed an affidavit. We also donated money from the sale of paintings to charity.”

WB CM Mamata Banerjee urges immediate steps for electoral reforms

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today called for immediate steps for electoral reforms to ensure transparency and accountability.

“Electoral reforms are urgently needed to maintain transparency and accountability in our democracy and the election process,” Banerjee told PTI.

Trinamool Congress’s national spokesperson Derek O’ Brien said the party would agitate to press for electoral reforms in the coming Budget Session in Parliament.

“We will agitate both inside and outside Parliament,” he said.

“One political party is using money like a hosepipe to fund its campaign. It’s dangerous. We want wholesome democracy and not hosepipe democracy,” Brien, who is the chief whip of TMC Parliamentary party in Rajya Sabha said.

TMC, he said, has been raising the issue of electoral reforms ever since Mamata Banerjee wrote a book on the subject 20 years ago.

Brien said the Centre is not serious in bringing back black money. “We want a time bound plan and threadbare discussion on black money linked to poll funding,” he said.


PTI Story