‘Didi ke Bolo’, a Helpline initiated by West Bengal’s ruling TMC for people to reach out to the government with their grievances, is giving a tough time to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Not only are complaints against party leaders pouring in but the campaign — a brainchild of election strategist Prashant Kishor — has led to embarrassment to the Trinamool Congress.
A TMC leader privy to developments told IANS requesting anonymity that most complaints were against the local and district leadership. He said that the bulk of complaints related to corruption.
“We had an inkling about certain district leaders being involved in corruption but not to this extent,” the leader said.
“And in some cases, only after ‘Didi ke Bolo’ was started that we realised the true colour of some of our district leaders who the leadership in Kolkata thought were honest.”
Another TMC leader who has considerable clout in Kolkata told IANS, also on the condition of anonymity: “Didi’s (Mamata’s) rebuke to leaders asking them to return ‘cut money’ made many to take to streets to demand their bribe money back.
“What’s worse, some in our party took bribe but didn’t keep the promise for which the money was taken. So many people are extremely agitated.”
‘Cut money’ is a practice prevalent in Bengal where ruling party leaders take a kickback for allowing a house to be built or even during cremation.
On June 18, while addressing Kolkata’s civic body leaders, Banerjee opened up the Pandora’s box when she asked her leaders to return the ‘cut money’ to the people.
What shocked many was her open admission that she was aware of the fact that her party cadres extort Rs 200 for each Rs 2,000 disbursed by the government to cremate a corpse.
Soon after, Banerjee claimed she had got 5,913 complaints regarding ‘cut money’. Soon people, emboldened by the Chief Minister, started flooding the Helpline and in some case taking to the streets demanding what had been exorted from them.
In July, just six TMC leaders had to return as much as Rs 1.5 lakh in just one district.
After Prashant Kishor agreed to offer his professional service to the TMC, he advised Mamata to start a ‘conversation’ with her electorate where they can pour their heart out.
‘Didi ke Bolo’ is the result of that — where anyone can dial a number and register their complaint.
In some case, heads started to roll.
Shanta Sarkar, the Vice Chairman of the Rajpur-Sonarpur Municipality off Kolkata, was sacked on allegations of corruption.
Informed sources say that followed complaints received over the Helpline.
In some cases, people mobbed the residence of MLAs asking for their money. Posters were put up against Ministers.
Kishor, whose brainchild is ‘Didi Ke Bolo’, was roped in after the TMC fared badly in the Lok Sabha elections where the BJP tally jumped to 18 seats from just 2 in 2014.
The TMC and Banerjee realized they needed to do a course correction.