KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday condemned the BJP-led NDA government's move to send income tax notices to Durga Puja committees in the state and said religious festivals should not be taxed.
"Festivals are festivals. Those who believe in the Hindu religion, observe Durga Puja. It is a matter of excitement and wonder around the globe. Many political parties do not have to pay income tax for the funds they spend during the elections. Then why would the Puja committees have to pay tax? I condemn this attitude," Banerjee said after holding a meeting with Zilla Parishad members at the state secretariat.
"Moreover, the pujas are mostly organised by collecting subscriptions from people and through sponsorships. The people who give subscriptions already pay income tax and the companies that sponsor, give GST. Durga Puja is not a commercial function, it is a social function. The government has a social obligation towards such programmes. So the government cannot take income tax from them," she said.
Attacking the BJP, Banerjee said those who talk about Hinduism before the elections are insulting a religious festival like Durga Puja by asking the organisers to pay income tax.
"They talk about Hinduism before the elections and after the election is over, they ask for income tax from the biggest Hindu festival here (Bengal). It is not right. People of all religions attend the Durga Puja. This should not happen. It is an insult to the Puja," she claimed.
The Chief Minister said her government had paid an honorarium of Rs 10,000 to the community Durga Puja organisers last year as it has a social obligation to support such community programmes and plans to do the same this year.
Accusing the saffron party of trying to "capture" many things including EVMs with the "power of money", Banerjee said the party should try to win over people's hearts instead.
"Money can buy many things. One can capture the walls, capture the EVM machines but one cannot capture people's hearts with money. BJP should first learn to win over people's hearts," she added.