Uproar in Bengal as BJP deposits Rs3 cr ahead of currency ban

Deposits of Rs3 crore made by the West Bengal unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party in a nationalised bank in Kolkata eight days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation announcement have triggered a controversy.

The last transaction, involving Rs40 lakh, was made minutes before the PM's speech.

The party insists that the events shouldn't be seen together. The revelations, however, provided opposition parties with ammunition ahead of the 19 November bye-elections to one assembly and two Lok Sabha seats in the state.

Sources in the Indian Bank's Central Avenue branch confirmed that the deposits were made in four tranches. According to a report published in Communist Party of India (Marxist) mouthpiece Ganashakti on Friday, the BJP had on 8 November deposited Rs60 lakh and then Rs40 lakh - all of it in neatly packed 500 rupee and 1,000 rupee notes. While the first deposit was made to a savings account (No 554510034) named Bharatiya Janata Party, West Bengal, in the afternoon, the second was made around 8pm. However, it is not clear how the bank was open at 8pm.

According to the same report, in a different current account (also maintained by the party's state unit) Rs75 lakh was deposited on 1 November and Rs1.25 crore on 5 November.

"It's possible that BJP members were well aware of this ban and that is why they deposited huge amounts in banks across the nation to make their black money white," CPM state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra said.

State BJP president Dilip Ghosh, however, ruled out any irregularities and said, "Normally, party funding happens through donations and cash forms a part of it. We issue receipts against the cash received. Copies of such receipts are available with the party for verification."

BJP vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar said, "Unlike other parties, who can't reveal their source of funds, we generally carry out transactions through cheques. For cash transactions of such amounts in banks, one has to produce PAN details. The mention of proper PAN and other details during the transaction proves that it's a legitimate transaction."

The Congress accused the Modi government of having "selectively leaked" information about the demonetisation of Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes, and demanded that the names of "individuals who benefited from the advance warning" be made public. Congress spokesman Anand Sharma said the Centre should provide a list of people who had invested over Rs5 lakh in jewellery, foreign exchange and shares between 20 October and 8 November (the date of the ban).

He pointed to newspaper reports published well before 8 November to stress that information about the ban became public before the official announcement. He said that the ban had brought "financial chaos", and that the long queues at banks and absence of money at ATMs had spelt acute hardship for the poor.