KOLKATA: In a fund-raising initiative unprecedented in the country’s political history, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal is all set to sell its membership, that too for high prices.
For one-time payment, a person who can pay Rs 50,000, will be “honoured” with the life-time membership of the party. The next stage is associate members, who have to pay Rs 30,000 and for “active members”, the charge is Rs 19,500.
However, all these new members will have to submit their PAN card details along with their applications and a six-member committee will scrutinise their names before admitting them into the party in the three categories which have been decided by the party leadership.
The TMC launched the new membership scheme on Thursday, the foundation day of the party, which was formed on January 1, 1998.
Already, around 100 people have applied for life membership and being a ruling party in West Bengal, the queue to join it is increasing by the day at the Trinamool Bhavan here.
When the TMC was formed by Mamata Banerjee after she was expelled from the Congress in 1996, the yearly subscription fee was only `5 and it was mandatory for all members to renew it before December 31 every year. However, the annual fee was later slashed to Rs 1.
The party, which came to power ousting the CPM-led Left Front with its popular slogan of ‘Ma, Mati, Manush’ (meaning Bengal, its fertile land and the masses) espousing the cause of the proletariat, now plans to collect a whopping `200 crore this year. The move by the TMC led by party head and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who dresses austerely in cheap cotton sarees and rubber flip-flops sans any jewellery, sparked off a controversy on Saturday.
The Opposition parties in the state pointed out that the TMC move violated the Representation of People Act, which governs our electoral system and would encourage Trinamool Congress workers to fleece people. West Bengal BJP spokesman Jaiprakash Majumdar alleged, “This is nothing, but a lucrative extortion racket to milk the rich and tie them down to the TMC the law clearly states that a person cannot be a member of more than one registered political party. This is nothing but to turn huge amounts of Saradha funds which their leaders have received in cash into accountable funds as they need to submit their books of accounts to the Income Tax Department and the Election Commission.”
The Congress was sarcastic in its reaction. Party leader Arunabho Ghosh asked, “How will a Chief Minister who doesn’t draw any salary pay Rs 50,000 to be a high-caste member within her own party?”
CPM Lok Sabha member Mohammed Salim argued that this happens with clubs, but never in a political party. “How can a party whose expiry date is nearing offer life-time memberships? This is a tactic to turn their ill-gotten-funds earned through extortions, abuse of office and innumerable ponzi fund schemes like the Sharadha into white,” he said.