Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress on Tuesday held a day-long dharna to protest IT notices to Durga Puja committees and accused the BJP-led government at the Centre of trying to intimidate the committees and make them surrender to the saffron camp.
Accusing BJP of "political double standards" for alleging that TMC was trying to stop Durga puja in Bengal, it said, in reality, it is the saffron party which is trying to do so.
TMC cadres carrying posters and placards shouted slogans against the central government and blamed them for insulting the religious sentiments of the Bengalis.
"They (BJP) have become so arrogant that they are trying to stop the famed Durga Puja of our state. Who are they to stop us from holding our Pujas? If Durga Puja is hampered due to this taxation, Bengali people will not accept it," senior TMC leader Firhad Hakim said addressing the dharna.
Senior TMC leader Partha Chatterjee alleged that BJP is trying to forcibly take control of puja committees in the state.
"During the Lok Sabha poll campaign they(BJP) used to allege that our government had tried to stop Durga Puja in the state. This was completely false and politically motivated. It is the BJP government which is trying to do it now by sending IT notices to Durga puja committees. This is political double standards," Chatterjee, who also states Education Minister, told reporters.
The sole intention of sending IT notices to the puja committees is to intimidate them and make them surrender to the BJP so that its leaders can control them, he alleged.
"They (BJP) had initially planned to take over these committees but failed. So now they are trying to threaten puja committees with IT notices. Most of these committees conduct Durga Puja with subscription taken from locals and handful of local advertisements. We fail to understand what it has to do with the Income Tax department," Chatterjee said.
West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee had on Sunday criticised the Centre for issuing income tax notices to several Durga Puja committees in the city saying festivals should be exempt from levies.
She had also announced that the women's wing of the party - 'Banga Janani Brigade' will lead the eight-hour long dharna.
BJP has criticised TMC's decision to hold the protest and accused a section of its leaders of laundering money "looted" in the chit fund scams in the state through the puja committees.
Union Minister Babul Supriyo said Durga Puja is a festival of Bengalis celebrated across the globe and the IT notices are not aimed at the Pujas but at the source of funds.
"People are angry with those who use cut money for organising Durga Puja," he said during the day. Senior BJP leader Mukul Roy wondered why TMC is "scared" if it has done no wrong.
"Why are they (TMC) so afraid if the IT department is looking into the source of money (of the puja committees) if there is nothing wrong in it? Most of the Durga puja committees in Kolkata are controlled by TMC leaders. They use these committees to launder black money and cut money," Roy said.
TMC, which had been rocked by allegations against its leaders for accepting cut money to provide benefits from government schemes, has termed the allegations as baseless. Post the Lok Sabha elections, the two parties have been trying to gain control of the city's prominent pujas, a time-tested medium to reach out to the people.
Several top TMC leaders and ministers are associated with big-ticket pujas of the state.