As political parties gear up for Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, data released by the central government has shown that CPI(M) lawmaker Mohammed Salim has secured the top spot in terms of utilisation of MPLADS funds in the state, followed by TMC MPs.
Besides Salim, the other five MPs who have performed well in terms of the MPLADS fund utilisation were all first-time MPs, involved in social service or the entertainment industry before becoming parliamentarians in 2014.
Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) enables MPs to recommend developmental work in their constituencies with an emphasis on creating durable community assets based on locally felt needs.
West Bengal with 42 Lok Sabha seats had utilised around 93.42 per of the released MPLADS funds. Around Rs 803.39 crore was used in the last five years and Rs 124.47 crore still lies unused in the MPLADS from the state.
Projects worth over Rs 1000 crore were recommended by MPs cutting across party lines and the amount sanctioned was Rs 902.44 crore.
In the 16th Lok Sabha from 2014-2019, Salim had recommended around Rs 28.88 crore for developmental work of which Rs 21.51 crore was sanctioned by the Centre. Around Rs 20.05 crore was spent from the sanctioned amount.
Salim alleged that the district administration had been "lethargic" in releasing the utilisation certificates thereby "blocking" the way for the release of funds for the subsequent year.
Under MPLADS, the role of an MP is limited only up to recommendation of developmental works. Thereafter it is the responsibility of the district administration to sanction, execute and complete the works recommended by the MP within the stipulated time period.
The second in the list of utilising the fund was first-time TMC MP Mamata Bala Thakur, from Bongaon Lok Sabha constituency.
The amount available with interest in MPLADS was around Rs 26.03 crore. Thakur had recommended around Rs 27.72 crore of which Rs 25.58 crore was sanctioned by the Centre. Of the sanctioned sum, around Rs 25.34 crore was spent and the percentage of utilisation of funds was 110.60 percent.
The amount available with interest in MPLADS was around Rs 26.92 crores and Roy had recommended around Rs 27.89 crore for developmental work of which the entire amount was sanctioned. Around Rs 26.50 crore was spent and the percentage of utilization was 104.40 percent.
Bengali actor and first time TMC MP Deepak Adhikari, commonly know as Dev, from Ghatal Lok Sabha constituency ranked fourth. The amount available with interest in MPLADS was around Rs 18.91 crore and Adhikari had recommended around Rs 25.84 crore of which the entire amount was sanctioned.
Around Rs 18.29 crore was spent and the percentage of utilisation is 102.51 percent.
The fifth in the list was TMC MP Aparupa Poddar, another first time MP from Arambag Lok Sabha constituency.
The amount available with interest in MPLAD was around Rs 28.55 crore and Poddar had recommended around Rs 35.88 crore of which Rs 28.25 crore was sanctioned. Around Rs 26.06 crore was spent and the percentage of utilization of released funds stood at 102.24 per cent.
In the case of senior TMC leader and first time MP, Abhishek Banerjee, who also happens to be the nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the percentage of utilisation of the released funds stand at 94.04 per cent.
The amount available with interest in MPLADS was around Rs 26.87 crore. The MP had recommended projects around Rs 26.92 crore of which Rs 23.94 crores was sanctioned. Around Rs 21.56 crore was spent for various projects.
Ahluwalia alleged that he had submitted around 312 recommendations to the district administration for various developmental projects but 228 recommendations were yet to be processed.
The amount available with interest in the MPLADS of Ahluwalia was around Rs 10.29 crore. Ahluwalia had recommended projects worth Rs 25.22 crores of which Rs 8.81 crore was sanctioned. Around Rs 5.83 crore was spent and the percentage of utilization of released funds was 56.30 per cent.
"I had recommended around 312 projects worth Rs 25 crore but the district administration is yet to submit recommendations for 228 projects. It has not submitted utilisation certificates which has also blocked funds," he told PTI.
Senior TMC leader and state North development minister Rabindranath Ghosh refuted the claims of non cooperation and termed the allegations as "baseless".
"I want to ask him how many times has he visited his constituency? It is very easy to blame others to hide our own failures," Ghosh told PTI.
Ahluwalia's views were echoed by three-time Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, and CPI(M) MP from Murshidabad Badruddoza Khan. They alleged that the district administration had "not cooperated" with them.