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8 Jun 2017

Bribe probe on Bengal BJP leaders

Pronab Mondal, TT, Calcutta, June 7: The Bengal CID has decided to probe a complaint against some BJP leaders in North 24-Parganas for allegedly collecting money from poor villagers after promising them homes under a central scheme.
The investigating agency took over the probe from the local police in Basirhat that had started a case following a complaint against BJP leader Ranjit Pal by Gauranga Sarkar, a resident of Basirhat II block. Sarkar alleged that he had given the politician Rs 500 on January 18.
Among the BJP leaders being probed is the Basirhat district party president, Bikram Singh, sources said.
Sources said the allegations, if proved correct, would give Trinamul enough opportunities to embarrass the BJP in the run-up to the panchayat polls in the state next year.
Officials said the preliminary investigation by Basirhat police had suggested that Rs 1.5 crore had been allegedly collected from around 30,000 villagers by the local BJP leaders.
Sarkar, according to the police sources, alleged that Pal had assured him that the money he paid would ensure inclusion in the list of beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin.
The housing scheme promises shelter for all rural families by 2022. It was launched last year as a revised version of the Indira Awas Yojana, offering Rs 1.2 lakh per house in the plains and Rs 1.3 lakh in hilly tracts and the northeastern states.
"Ranjit Pal and Bikash Singh were involved in this. They had been doing this for some time," said a police officer in Basirhat.
CID sources said the money was being collected for about a year and BJP supporters were targeted mostly.
"Targeting their own supporters had two advantages. First, it is easy to convince them that they will benefit from the schemes of the BJP-run Centre. Second, the victims would hesitate to complain against leaders who represent the party of their choice," an officer said.
The CID officers said they would record the statements of the alleged victims.
"Anything between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 was collected from thousands of people in that belt," said another officer.
Trinamul district president and minister Jyotipriya Mullick said he was aware of the "scam" and alleged that hundreds of BJP leaders and activists in the district had been using forged documents of central schemes to take money from the villagers after promising them benefits.
"Singh and his associates are just the tip of the iceberg.... I would like to ask the BJP what it plans to do with these corrupt elements that fill their ranks. It's ironic, as the BJP is most vocal about corruption," said Mullick.
According to Mullick, thousands of villagers in Basirhat alone had been threatening to ransack BJP offices out of anger.
While the BJP's Bengal leadership could not identify Pal - national secretary Rahul Sinha said he did not know anybody in the party by that name - and his contact details could not be ascertained, repeated calls to Singh's cellphone from this newspaper did not go through.
BJP national secretary Sinha, however, said the party would independently look into the allegations and if anyone was found guilty, he or she would not be spared.
"We will examine this thoroughly and the law will take its own course. If anybody from the BJP is involved, the party will not protect them. If not, then this will expose the conspiracy of the ruling party," said Sinha.

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