Wednesday, December 7, 2022

TMC-BJP slugfest after MLA’s wife win Rs. 1 cr Nagaland lottery

A Rs 1-crore lottery prize won by a Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLA’s wife has sparked a new political row in West Bengal, with the Opposition levelling accusations of money laundering against the ruling party.
The BJP also accused the ruling TMC of rigging the lottery to ensure that its leaders win frequently.
Jorasanko MLA Vivek Gupta’s wife Ruchika is the second person linked to the TMC to win the top prize in the lottery in as many years, reports The Indian Express. The TMC has dismissed the allegations and hit back at the BJP.
Ruchika on August 31 won the first prize in a lottery run by the Nagaland government. The “DEAR Government Lotteries” run in Sikkim, Nagaland, and West Bengal. The news of Ruchika’s win came to light after West Bengal’s Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari on Thursday tweeted about it and took a dig at TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, who is chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew (or “bhaipo” in Bengali).
“I have been saying this all along that Dear (Bhaipo) Lottery and TMC have a tangled relationship. It’s an easy way to launder money. Common people buy tickets but TMC leaders win bumper prizes. First Anubrata Mondal won the jackpot and now TMC MLA Vivek Gupta’s wife has won one crore.”
The BJP leader also posted a letter he wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah on November 8, 2021, long before the news of Ruchika’s win surfaced.
Gupta isn’t the only one who’s won a jackpot through this lottery in the past year. Anubrata Mondal, a TMC strongman and the head of the party’s Birbhum district unit, won Rs 1 crore in December 2021. He was arrested in August by the Central Bureau of Investigation on charges of cattle smuggling and is currently in jail.
In another instance, Neru Singh, the sister-in-law of TMC’s Nalhati MLA Rajendra Prasad Singh, also won Rs 1 crore in July this year.
Incidentally, the Enforcement Directorate has been investigating Dear Lottery– organised by the state governments of Sikkim and Nagaland– for money laundering. In April this year, the Enforcement Directorate provisionally attached the company’s movable assets worth Rs 409.22 crore.
The ED accused the company running the lottery of allegedly “retaining unsold lottery tickets and claiming top prizes on such unsold tickets in the pre-GST period up to 2017”.
The “DEAR Government Lotteries” company recently announced the names of winners in a newspaper advertisement. According to it, Ruchika Gupta bought ticket number “81K 13988” from the company and won the first prize.
In the advertisement, Ruchika was quoted as saying that she was surprised to know she had won and had never imagined she would have Rs 1 crore in her bank account. She also thanked the Nagaland government and Dear Government Lotteries and claimed that she would use the money to improve her family’s financial status.
Speaking to ThePrint, Vivek Gupta said that the BJP was “making a mountain out of a molehill”.
“These lottery agents come to our offices for advertisements and urge us to buy tickets. So, we usually get these six rupees tickets. My wife won a lottery in August, but it was an inauspicious day according to the lunar calendar, so we didn’t even celebrate,” he told ThePrint.
Hitting out at the Opposition party, senior TMC leader and state minister Firhad Hakim said, “Everything cannot be politicised. It is the Income Tax Department’s job to investigate if someone has made a false declaration. If you are so eager then send a complaint to the Income Tax Department.”
A TMC leader said, “Anyone can buy a lottery ticket legally. Now, if any agency is suspicious that through lottery black money has been converted into white then they are free to investigate. The agency can serve them a notice. Moreover, Ruchika Gupta is not a TMC leader. If agencies have suspicions about a money trail, they can probe the matter.”
TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh questioned the Centre for allowing lotteries to be run and said if there was anything illegal the government should ban lotteries.

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