Mamata Banerjee outside the Baba Kharak Singh Marg flat in New Delhi on Sunday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Sept. 30: Mamata Banerjee spent the day engaged in the twin tasks of packing out of a flat that has been her address in Delhi for nearly 20 years and preparing for tomorrow’s Trinamul protest against the government.
Mamata is preparing to vacate Flat C-4, Swarn Jayanti Apartments, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, because her confidant Mukul Roy is no longer entitled to two official residences, having quit the Union ministry. “Packing is on and hopefully it will be vacated before Puja,” an aide said.
Roy had got the flat allotted to him after Mamata quit as railway minister and MP last year to become Bengal’s chief minister. Since Mukul had a small bungalow, 181 South Avenue, he could take another flat. Whenever Mamata came to Delhi, she would stay in this flat and not in the chief minister’s suite at Banga Bhavan.
Mamata, known for her simple lifestyle, had won accolades for staying in her MP’s flat rather than a ministerial bungalow during her stints in the NDA and UPA II governments. Now, forced into a choice, her party has decided to give up the flat rather than Roy’s bungalow, which also functions as the Trinamul office in Delhi.
People close to Mamata said she today personally sorted out her belongings.
“We are vacating the flat as we do not want to take any favours from the government. Our leader has declared a war against the government’s policies and wants to make it credible by vacating the flat,” a Trinamul leader said.
“A lot of memories are associated with this flat; still our leader has decided to vacate it.”
During future Delhi visits, Mamata may stay in the new Banga Bhavan on Circular Road, which she inspected today and which has a plush suite for the chief minister. Some Trinamul leaders, however, said she might instead stay in Roy’s bungalow since it is also the party office.
The flat had been allotted to Mamata after she quit the Narasimha Rao government in 1993 as junior minister for human resource development, youth affairs and sports, and women and child development. She had announced her decision to quit at a rally in Calcutta, accusing the Centre of being indifferent to her proposals to improve sports in the country.
Mamata’s party members, however, have not followed her 1993 example of leaving her ministerial bungalow and settling for a flat. All the six Trinamul members who quit the central government this month continue to occupy the bungalows allotted to them as ministers.
They claim that as former ministers and incumbent MPs, they are entitled to stay in what they described as the small bungalows allotted to them.
“Most of the bungalows allotted to us are either of Type 7 or Type 6. We are entitled to hold them as former ministers,” an ex-junior minister claimed.
Under the rules, a first-time MP is entitled to a flat or a Type 6 bungalow. Ministers are usually given Type 8 bungalows with big lawns, depending on availability.
Mamata was today occupied with the preparations for her party’s demonstration tomorrow against the government’s recent decisions on FDI in retail, diesel prices and cooking gas subsidy. She will be seen at Jantar Mantar, Delhi’s protest square, after five years.
In July 2007, Mamata had held a demonstration there to protest land acquisition in Nandigram and Singur. She had then led a delegation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and handed over a memorandum. Tomorrow, she will be demonstrating against the Prime Minister and his government.
Mamata hopes to turn the event into a big show and is planning similar demonstrations in other state capitals.
Jantar Mantar has been plastered with her posters. Trinamul supporters were heard shouting slogans projecting her as the next Prime Minister outside Roy’s bungalow, where Mamata was closeted with her party colleagues.
“It is not a dharna but a protest rally. Our MPs will be present but we have not got anybody from Bengal. It will be a Delhi rally and only people from Delhi will come,” Mamata said.
K.D. Singh, Trinamul MP from neighbouring Haryana, has been tasked with marshalling a sizeable crowd.
Mamata believes the issues she has raised will strike a chord with the common people. Her party leaders feel tomorrow’s protest would be a success and force other parties to rally behind Mamata.
Job jab at CM
Union minister V. Narayanasamy today alleged that no industrial activity had taken place in Bengal or jobs created in the state since Mamata Banerjee assumed power, hitting back at the Trinamul chief for her criticism of the UPA government’s policies.
“After Mamata Banerjee came to power in Bengal, there has been no industrial development and no jobs were created. A state cannot remain like that.... The Centre cannot remain like that,” the minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office told reporters at the airport here.
“The Centre has to march forward for the purpose of fulfilling the wishes and aspirations of the people”, Narayanasamy added.