The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minister & party target mayor

Calcutta, Oct. 27: CPM mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya today came under attack from both the government and his party over his way of functioning.

While urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya held the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) responsible for delay in implementing sanctioned projects worth over Rs 600 crore, state party secretary Biman Bose censured the mayor for “taking unilateral decisions”.

The minister said the Kumartuli revival project, which is partly funded by the Centre, had not taken off because of the civic body’s failure to find land to rehabilitate the 500-odd slum dwellers and artisans living there. “For the past two years, the CMC has been unable to find the alternative plot. We will wait another year, after which we might have to send back the money to the Centre.”

The CMC, he added, had also failed to start work on a slew of projects under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. “Central sanction has come for a Rs 402-crore drainage revamp for Calcutta. A Rs 98-crore sewerage facility for the city has also been cleared. Environment clearance for the Rs 98-crore water plant at Dhapa has come through. But work on these projects hasn’t begun.”

Yesterday, the mayor drew flak from the CPM’s Calcutta and South 24-Parganas committees for not taking the party and mayor-in-council members into confidence while making decisions. The growing tension between the party and its mayor prompted Bose to call several damage-control meetings. Stressing “collective leadership”, Bose asked the mayor and party leaders to iron out differences and resume the co-ordination meeting.

CPM insiders have accused Bikash Ranjan of keeping the party-CMC co-ordination committee in the dark about most decisions. “Only two meetings of the committee, headed by CMC chairman and senior leader Nirmal Mukherjee, have been held since the Left Front won the CMC election 17 months ago,’’ complained a Calcutta district committee member.

Asok Bhattacharya also accused the mayor of planning to bypass the government by meeting Union urban development minister Jaipal Reddy with proposals that do not have the state’s clearance.

“The mayor is taking proposals to Reddy under the urban renewal mission without consulting the government, which will have to share the financial burden of implementing them. I chair the steering committee on the mission and we have to also think of the 41 municipalities covered by it. The CMC has already got Rs 600 crore worth of projects sanctioned — why doesn’t it implement them first'” the minister asked.

The mayor refuted the charges saying the Kumartuli rehabilitation project was not the CMC’s and denying that work on the Dhapa plant was yet to start. “The minister is misrepresenting facts. He was present at the party headquarters today, but didn’t say a word there. It’s not true that I’ve been bypassing the government and taking my proposals to Delhi,” he said this evening.

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