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Politics of bonus at Mamata mahamichhil

Calcutta, Sept. 22: The Calcutta Municipal Corporation is ready to pay full bonus to its employees if the government withdraws its decision to slash it, mayor Subrata Mukherjee today told a rally at the foot of the Gandhi statue before hitting the road with Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee for a mahamichhil.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta had said at Writers’ Buildings on Thursday that the government would halve the festival bonus it had paid last year due to a severe funds crunch. This Pujas, it will pay teachers, non-teaching staff and employees of panchayats and civic bodies Rs 1,000 only.

“I can easily afford to pay full bonus for my 41,000 civic staff if the government takes back its decision on payment of bonus,” Mukherjee said this afternoon. Interestingly, the announcement comes barely 48 hours before Left Front councillors plan to move a no-confidence motion against the Trinamul Congress-controlled civic board.

Unlike Mamata’s previous rallies, the mahamichhil this time proved to be a damp squib, literally. As the supporters gathered at the foot of the Gandhi statue, so did dark ominous clouds in the sky. Minutes after Mamata and the other speakers began their speeches, the skies opened up. Though the Trinamul chief exhorted her supporters to brave the rains, many were seen slinking away.

Addressing the moderate rally, Mamata repeated her offer to the “disgruntled” Left Front partners that she would lend “unconditional support” to the Forward Bloc, the CPI and the RSP if they came out of the CPM front and formed an alternative government.

“I call upon the minor Front partners to raise their voices against the CPM’s misrule and come out to form an alternative government.… I am convinced that the minor partners are upset at the way things are turning out in Bengal,” she said. At the rally she unveiled her plan to organise another — this time at the Brigade Parade Ground on December 18 to highlight the CPM’s “misrule for 25 long years”.

Lambasting the CPM for its decision to slash puja bonus, Mamata said the trend was indicative of the government’s bankruptcy.

But the mayor’s announcement met with strong protest from the CPM councillors who will table the no-trust motion on Wednesday. “This is Subrata’s political stunt to impress those civic employees owing allegiance to the CPM and other Left parties,” said CPM councillor and former mayor-in-council member, roads, Sudhansu Sil.

Sil added that the move was aimed at diverting attention from the motion. “Let Subrata do whatever he likes, but we are determined to table the motion to protest against the civic body’s failures in all spheres,” he added.

An unfazed Mukherjee maintained that Trinamul would survive the motion. “This is for the second time that Front councillors have planned to table the motion, but we are not bothered since the Trinamul-BJP combine has the requisite strength in the 141-member civic board,” he said.

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