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Mayor locks up gate as Advani drops out
The Telegraph Metro that issued an appeal to Advani

Calcutta, June 27: Mayor Subrata Mukherjee today cancelled the foundation stone-laying ceremony for his grand gateway project after deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani made it clear that he was not going to do the honours.

Advani’s office said he would visit Calcutta as scheduled on July 6 but would not lay the foundation stone for the so-called gateway as the project had not obtained all the clearances.

The mayor said: “The view of the people must be respected when we assess their needs. We thought up the gateway project because we felt there was a need for one. We are now cancelling the foundation stone-laying ceremony, not the project, because we respect popular opinion.”

Mukherjee planned to build a gateway — possibly because Delhi and Mumbai have one — on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass at a cost of Rs 20 crore and had met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee with a model earlier this week.

Bhattacharjee’s office apparently allowed the foundation stone-laying ceremony to go ahead out of respect for Advani.

The chief minister, who enjoys a rapport with the deputy Prime Minister, is believed to have informed Advani that the project had yet to receive clearances from traffic planners and the environment department and that there was a lack of transparency about the source of funds. There are allegations of money being diverted from another project.

Bhattacharjee said the foundation stone could be laid but construction could start only after all clearances were obtained. “It was considerate and gracious of him,” an Advani aide said, but the decision not to lay the foundation stone is firm.

Advani’s office has explained to Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, who had invited the deputy Prime Minister to the ceremony, that he cannot inaugurate a project that has not received all approvals.

But as a sweetener, Advani has promised to visit Calcutta again when the formalities are completed.

In a display of bravado, Mukherjee said: “I know nothing about Advani’s coming or going. He may come, he may not come, I have no information to enlighten you, my friends. All that I can say is that the state government will be kept in the picture as and when I decide to have the foundation stone of the project laid.”

Mukherjee’s spin doctors tried to create the impression that Advani decided to stay away because Mamata, who he apparently dislikes, invited him. But indications from the deputy Prime Minister’s office suggested Advani simply wanted to avoid getting sucked into a controversy.

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