Mamata slams Centre for I-T notices to Durga Puja panels, hits out at BJP

Mamata said her government had paid an honorarium of Rs 10,000 to the Durga Puja organisers last year. (File)

Stating that religious festivals should be exempted from Income Tax, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday slammed the BJP government at the Centre for sending I-T notices to Durga Puja committees in West Bengal.

Festivals are festivals. Many political parties do not have to pay Income Tax for the funds they spend during the elections. Then why would Durga Puja committees have to pay tax? I condemn this attitude. Moreover, these pujas are mostly organised after collecting donations from people and through sponsorships. People who give subscriptions to these puja committees already pay Income Tax, and also the companies that sponsor the pujas give GST. Durga Puja is not a commercial function, it is a social function, Mamata told mediapersons at the state Secretariat here.

Explained

Attempt to put BJP on the mat

With BJP trying to making inroads in puja committees, particularly in Kolkata, as part of its 2021 Assembly polls strategy, the I-T notices to Durga Puja organisers have come as a shot in the arm for TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, who has used the issue to hit back at the BJP since the saffron party accuses her of Muslim appeasement. As Mamata gears up for polls, she is keen to use the discontent among the puja committees to her party s benefit and further highlight that BJP is anti-Bengali culture.

In January, the I-T Department had sent notices to over 20 Durga Puja committees of Kolkata. Recently, there were reports that more Durga Puja committees were issued similar IT notices.

Mamata said, When the election comes, they (BJP) indulges in Hindu-Muslim politics. When elections are over, they do this side and that side. They are asking puja committees to pay Income Tax. This is not right. They are being harassed. People of all religions attend the Durga Puja. This should not happen. It is an insult to Durga Puja.

She said her government had paid an honorarium of Rs 10,000 to the Durga Puja organisers last year as it s a social obligation to support them .

One can capture the walls, capture the EVM machines, but one cannot capture peoples hearts with money, she said.