- "This is an insult to the Pujas," Mamata Banerjee said today
- In Bengal, around 28,000 Durga Pujas are held every year
- The Centre has been trying to get puja committees into the tax net
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is a planning a protest against the tax the BJP-led Central government is trying to impose on Durga Puja committees of the state. In a series of tweets today, Ms Banerjee said the Income Tax department has issued notices to many committees who organise Durga pujas, asking them to pay taxes. "Festivals are for all and we do not want any pujo festival to be taxed," she added.
With crores of rupees being spent on Bengal's biggest festival, the Centre has been trying ṭo get the puja committees into the tax net.
Around 28,000 Durga Pujas are held across the state every year. Locals say of the 2,200 pujas held in Kolkata, at best 25 puja committees have budgets of around Rs. 50 lakh. The rest spend just about Rs. 15 lakh. Bringing all of them under the tax net is challenging, members of the committees claim to have told the Tax officials.
Last month, after the income tax department had summoned several puja committees, Ms Banerjee had attacked the BJP, calling it anti-Hindu.
"This is an insult to the Pujas. What about the money spent by political parties on elections? Many parties have tax relief. Why shouldn't Pujas have income tax relief? What is the income of Puja committees? They take donations from people. They take ads and sponsors from companies who have paid GST," she said.
Today in a series of tweets, she said:
The Income Tax Dept has issued notices to many committees who organize Durga pujos, asking them to pay taxes. We are proud of all our national festivals 1/3— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) August 11, 2019
These festivals are for all and we do not want any pujo festival to be taxed. This will be a burden on the organizers. #Bangla govt withdrew tax, which was earlier there, on Ganga Sagar Mela. We protest and demand 'no taxation on Durga pujo and Durga pujo committees '. (2/3)— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) August 11, 2019
The Trinamool Congress Banga Janani Wing will sit on dharna on Tuesday August 13 at Subodh Mallik Square (Opp Hind Cinema) 10am-6pm. Organisers, participants and all people who love #Bangla may please join. (3/3)— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) August 11, 2019
Ms Banerjee's attack on the BJP comes in the wake of the party's unprecedented gains in the recent Lok Sabha elections. From having just two Lok Sabha seats, the party won 18 of the state's 42 seats.
Crtitics say much of the BJP's gains had followed Ms Banerjee's move to issue restrictions on immersion processions during Durga Puja several years ago. This time, her ruling Trinamool Congress is hoping that the order for taxes during the festival will lead to the BJP scoring an own goal.
Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress has signed on election strategist Prashant Kishor to arrest the BJP surge ahead of the state elections in 2021.
Last week, Mr Kishor and his group, the IPAC, started with the flagship campaign "Didi ke Bolo" - a public outreach programme that invites people to dial the Chief Minister with their problems and complaints.