Those who give cut money and those who take it are equally guilty and both will be sent to jail if the charges are proved, state minister Partha Chatterjee told the Assembly today. The statement acquires significance coming in the wake of state-wide protests and several attacks by beneficiaries of several government schemes who accused ruling Trinamul Congress functionaries and activists in different parts of the state of extorting cut money from them for “helping” them avail the schemes.

The minister made the remark during a debate on the West Bengal Salaries and Allowances (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and The Bengal Legislative Assembly (Members’ Emoluments) (Amendment) Bill, 2019 today. He further asserted that chief minister Mamata Banerjee had taken a positive initiative by asking political leaders and activists to refund ‘cut money’ to the people who had been made to part with a portion of the money given to them under government schemes.

“This does not mean that all are bad. Both the takers and givers are equally responsible. They should be put in jails if the allegations of giving or taking ‘cut money’ are proved true. But what’s the need for carrying party flags and rush to the houses of people demanding refund of cut money,” Mr Chatterjee said while Congress and CPI-M MLAs raised the issue of ‘cut money’.

“People carrying party flags who are trying to tarnish the image of some others on charge of taking ‘cut money’ should also be jailed,” he said in an obvious reference to BJP leaders and activists who are in the forefront of the agitation against cut money. “Once, the former information and cultural affairs minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, who later became chief minister during the LF regime, resigned from Jyoti Basu’s cabinet alleging it was a government run by thieves. Does it mean that all in Basu’s government were thieves?,” Mr Chatterjee said, pointing at the CPI-M MLAs.

People backed by the BJP have been rushing to the houses of councillors of municipalities and gram panchayat members belonging to the ruling Trinamul Congress, demanding refund of ‘cut money’ in different parts of the state after the CM said the government won’t tolerate it if anyone took cut money. In several cases Trinamul Congress leaders in districts have been roughed up by irate mobs for not returning the ‘cut money’ they had allegedly taken from them.

Mr Sujon Chakraborty, CPIM legislative party leader, came down heavily on Mr Chatterjee’s statement, saying, “The Trinamul Congress in a bid to save its party leaders, is trying to shift the blame on the people who were made to cough up money to the ruling party. We demand the state government should take stern action against Trinamul leaders accused of taking cut money.”

“Mr Chatterjee should not make such statements at a time when his party leaders have looted poor helpless people across the state,” said Mr Jay Prakash Majumder, BJP spokesperson. On 8 July several hundred people who had paid ‘cut money’ allegedly to Mushtaque Mollah, Trinamul Congress member of South 24-Parganas Zilla Parishad (ZP) and son of the state food processing minister Rezzak Mollah, gheraoed his office at Hatisala in the New Town area to get back their money.