TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee and several other party leaders were detained on Tuesday night after they held a dharna at the Union Rural Development Ministry office in New Delhi demanding a meeting with the minister.
The development came as the tug-of-war between the Centre and the West Bengal government over the release of funds to the state intensified with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) holding protests in the national capital for the second consecutive day.
Banerjee, along with party lawmakers, state ministers and supporters including MGNREGA workers, protested at Jantar Mantar here, a day after they held a two-hour sit-in at the Rajghat on Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary before being evicted by the police.
They later took out a march to the Rural Development Ministry at the Krishi Bhavan, where they had an appointment with Minister of State Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti.
However, around an hour and a half after going to the Bhavan, TMC leaders claimed that the MoS refused to meet them saying she would not meet more than five representatives, reported PTI.
The TMC leaders, who had brought with them bundles of letters addressed to the prime minister and the rural development minister, refused to leave till the MoS met them.
Led by Banerjee, a group of TMC leaders sat on a dharna, which continued till around 9 pm, after which they were detained by the police and evicted from the ministry premises.
The Trinamool Congress claimed that the phones of some leaders were also taken by the police.
Earlier, addressing the protesters at Jantar Mantar, Banerjee said their party's elected representatives will forgo their salaries to pay MGNREGA workers and the payments will be made within two months even if the Centre does not pay their dues.
He also accused the Centre of trying to stall their protest. "Yesterday they sent around 5,000 to 10,000 police personnel, RAF and other forces to stop 50 leaders of the TMC. Today as well the number of security personnel here makes it appear as if India-China war is going on here," said Banerjee, flanked by party leaders holding placards on the stage.
"There are 70,000 elected representatives from Trinamool in Bengal. We will forego a month's salary and ensure that these 2,500 people get their money before November 30. I promise you that these people will get their money within two months," he said.
He also said the Union government is spending thousands of crores on planes and the New Parliament Building, but is not paying dues to workers. The TMC leader accused the central government of trying to threaten the protesters and said despite all its efforts, the Centre could not stop the TMC.
Lok Sabha MP from Krishnanagar Mahua Moitra alleged the Centre is collecting taxes from West Bengal, but not giving the state's dues. "We have not come here to beg but for our rights... Mamata Banerjee is fighting not only for Bengal but for the people of the entire country," the firebrand leader said.
The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal has accused the BJP-led NDA government of withholding Rs 15,000 crore in dues to the state under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and PM Awas Yojana.
The BJP has rejected the charge and accused the TMC of doing a "drama" in Delhi to divert attention from the scams in West Bengal.
Demanding the release of funds by the Centre, West Bengal Minister of Rural Development Pradip Mazumdar said Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh, in a meeting with him on November 7, 2022, had assured that the funds would be released.
"There is no difference between the poor people of Begusarai (Giriraj Singh's constituency) and Bengal," Mazumdar said.
On Monday, at a press conference held in his constituency Begusarai, Giriraj Singh alleged that the Centre's money was "siphoned off" by the state government. The minister said over 25 lakh job cards have been deleted in the state and added that the Centre was contemplating ordering a CBI probe.