Calcutta, Nov. 21: In the middle of the firefight, some crisis managers today found time to get their teeth into a bread-and-butter issue.
What about the chief minister’s 1.30pm lunch, wondered a “thoughtful” section of the administration at Writers’ Buildings at the peak of the street battle today.
On normal days, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee leaves for his Palm Avenue home for lunch at 1.30 and returns to Writers’ at 4pm. As the regular route to Palm Avenue snakes through some of the tinder-box areas that exploded this morning, it was decided that the chief minister should not take a risk by travelling along the stretch.
But some officials do not give up that easily. According to a source in the chief minister’s secretariat, an alternative route via Hazra Road and Broad Street was initially thought of to take Bhattacharjee home.
“But we decided against it because of a roadblock at Hazra,” an official said. “Moreover, the chief minister insisted he would stay back at Writers’ in this hour of crisis.”
It was not clear whether the chief minister eventually learnt about the undeclared — and aborted — gastronomic mission but he had vegetable sandwiches and tea for lunch. Someone had ordered seekh kebab, too, but the chief minister did not have it, the source said.
The chief minister’s most high-stress day in office yet began later than usual as he was held up at Alimuddin Street — the CPM party base and normally the first port of call for Bhattacharjee on his way to Writers’ — because of the mob fury.
He usually spends time at Alimuddin till around 10.30am and then reaches his office at 10.40am. But today, the chief minister could reach Writers’ only at 12.05pm.
Bhattacharjee then held a meeting with officials, including the chief secretary, that went on for two hours. It was at this meeting that the decision to call the army was taken.
By the evening, the army had taken charge of the trouble spots, and the chief minister and he managed to leave office by 7.15, around 30 minutes later than usual.