Bhaichung, Bengal minister’s comments on sting raise opposition hackles

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Kolkata, March 25 (IANS) Days after several Trinamool Congress leaders were allegedly caught taking bribes, party candidate for the assembly polls and former footballer Bhaichung Bhutia on Friday said most political parties don’t show money taken by them.

West Bengal Law and Justice Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya earlier courted controversy after she said “there was a difference between bribe and grant”.

“In reality every party has got funds. Funds come to all parties and most of them don’t show it. It’s not only my party, funds come to all parties whether BJP, Congress, CPI-M, every party has gone through that in terms of money,” said Bhutia, who is contesting from Siliguri in north Bengal.

Bhutia’s comments came in the backdrop of the opposition gunning for West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee over a sting operation purportedly showing several top-notch party leaders, including former union ministers, state ministers and MPs and MLAs, accepting bribes in return for favouring a fictitious company.

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“We have seen that in the past that 15-16 Congress candidates took money for raising questions in parliament, BJP was also involved… that is always there,” said Bhutia, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Darjeeling, losing out to Bharatiya Janata Party’s S.S. Ahluwalia.

Bhattacharya claimed for argument’s sake, “If I accept that I have taken money, then also there is a difference between bribe and grant. That is what our counsel has said in court.”

Both Congress and Communist Party of India-Marxist were quick to take Bhutia and the minister’s comments as an admission of “Trinamool’s guilt”.

“He is a big player but is yet to absorb Trinamool’s polity. That is why he has made the admissions. But then accepting donations after giving due receipt and accepting bribe are different things,” said CPI-M Darjeeling district secretary Jibesh Sarkar.

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“The chief minister who calls herself the symbol of integrity, why is she silent on the matter, why hasn’t she ordered a probe yet? Trinamool is running the party only through bribe money. Naturally Bhutia has admitted that Trinamool takes bribe money and it is their policy,” Sarkar added.

“Perhaps Bhutia doesn’t realise how his words can put the Trinamool in discomfort. He is admitting, his party runs on bribe money.

“Trinamool is a party neck deep in corruption. We are seeing how over a dozen of their leaders have been caught in the sting operation. Many of their leaders were involved and even had to go to jail in the Saradha scam. It’s time this party was uprooted from Bengal,” said Congress state general secretary O.P. Mishra.

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Another Congress leader Abdul Mannan termed Bhattacharya’s comment as a change in Trinamool’s stand. “So now, Trinamool has started the bribe versus grant debate. The minister indirectly admitted the footage was not fictitious”.

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