KOLKATA: Even as West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra presented the state budget on Friday, the ruling TMC legislators remained worried about a party diktat on ‘selling’ memberships.
All the TMC MPs, MLAs and ministers have been directed to ‘sell’ three kinds of TMC memberships and mobilise funds.
The party has begun a drive to enrol ‘life members’ at a cost of `50,000; ‘associate members’ for `30,000; and ‘active members’ for `19,500. The one-time payments should be made through account payee cheques.
However, for ordinary members the annual fee is just `1. The party high command issued a diktat that each MP and MLA would have to enrol at least 10 associate members from within their families and also promote the membership drive among friends.
On an average, an MP or MLA individually will have to deposit `2.49 lakh to the party fund. As such with 194 legislators in the West Bengal Assembly, a fund of `4.85 crore will be amassed.
State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee has been entrusted with the responsibility of enrolling life members, while state minister Arup Biswas is distributing forms for associate members. He is being assisted by Cabinet colleagues Chondrima Bhattacharya and Rajib Banerjee.
A legislator in the West Bengal Assembly receives a monthly salary of `10,000, out of which `1,000 is deducted and deposited in the party fund as per standing orders issued by them individually to their banks.
Totalling additional allowances, each of them earns between `25,000 and `30,000, with which they have to bear their expenses and extend help to persons from their constituencies seeking assistance.
For MPs, a sum of `10,000 each month is credited to the TMC fund from their respective bank accounts. This has led to problems for several legislators, including some ministers, many of whom are new entrants in politics and have never collected money from the public.
A senior minister, who entered politics late in life remarked, “From where will I get people to donate so much of money as I come from a village? This will make party leaders illegally collect funds from dishonest traders and businessmen.”