Nobody expects Indian politicians to be the epitome of civilized conduct. But some members of the mayor-in-council at the Calcutta Municipal Corporation have now hit a new low. They have gone one step ahead of the fisticuffs and muscle-flexing which have become routine among the people’s representatives in legislatures and civic bodies. By manhandling the CMC commissioner, they have disgraced not only themselves and their party, the Trinamool Congress, but the entire political class. The manner in which the seven of them assaulted the defenceless bureaucrat in his office shows, yet again, the depths of misconduct politicians could plumb with impunity. None of their complaints against the commissioner, which seem baseless anyway, absolves them from the criminality of their action. Worse still, they are believed to have targeted the commissioner to settle scores with the mayor and their party colleague, Mr Subrata Mukherjee, with whom they had differences.
Mr Mukherjee reacted to the ugly episode in the only honourable way he could have done — by removing the gang of seven from his council. He had also shown courage by asking the commissioner to file criminal cases with the police against the seven accused. Irrespective of his loyalty to the party, the mayor’s is an important administrative office which is responsible for providing basic services to the citizens of Calcutta. There was no choice before the Trinamool Congress leader, Ms Mamata Banerjee, but to endorse the mayor’s decision. Her next steps would be crucial, not only for Mr Mukherjee, but also for the running of the civic body. Understandably, she would try to work out a compromise between the mayor and his colleagues in the interests of her party’s unity. But any attempt to rehabilitate the seven offenders in the next council would amount to letting them off too easily. Forcing the mayor to shift the commissioner out of the CMC would also mean rewarding them. Ms Banerjee now has the opportunity to repair the damage to her party’s image, and she should seize it.