Raising the issue of income tax notices to several Durga Puja committees in the State, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday accused the Centre and the Bharatiya Janata Party of insulting the festival. Speaking to journalists at the State Secretariat, Ms. Banerjee said those who talk about Hinduism before the elections are insulting a religious festival like Durga Puja by asking the organisers to pay income tax. The Income Tax Department had issued notices to about 40 big budget pujas during the last festival, seeking details of their income and expenditure.“Those who believe in the Hindu religion, observe Durga Puja. Many political parties do not have to pay income tax for the funds they spend during the elections. Then why would the puja committees have to pay tax? I condemn this attitude,” she said.Ms Banerjee’s remarks, just before the onset of the festival season, assumes significance as the BJP is likely to associate with several community Durga Pujas this year. Durga Pujas in West Bengal also serve as a prominent means of reaching out to large number of people. ‘Subscription by people’The Chief Minister said that community Durga Pujas are held on subscription paid by people, who pay taxes and therefore the question of taxing puja funds does not arise. “It is an insult to the pujas,” she said. Last year, West Bengal government paid an honorarium of ₹10,000 to the community Durga Puja organisers, a decision that was challenged in thee Calcutta High Court.
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