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Grand Krishnendu show

- New minister plans tourism overhaul

Malda, Nov. 23: Krishnendu Chowdhury returned to Malda in his new avatar as the state tourism minister to a tumultuous reception that showed the early signs of an easy walkover for him in the by-poll to Englishbazar Assembly constituency.

The minister said he planned to overhaul the tourism sector in the state and would focus more on the development of the sector in north Bengal.

Krishnendu had been sworn in as minister on Wednesday a day after he had resigned as the Congress MLA of Englishbazar.

The reception hosted for him by the Trinamul Congress threw traffic out of gear in Malda for hours this afternoon. Krishnendu received a kind of reception which even Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury hadn’t been accorded after his induction into the Union council of ministers.

The entire town was swathed in Trinamul colours and posters, festoons and cut-outs of Krishnendu, alongside those of Mamata Banerjee. Krishnendu arrived here from Calcutta by train around 2pm today. Youths on motorbikes and other vehicles took him around town as party members and the general public greeted him along a 4km route to his house at Netaji More as he rode an open-hooded car. The minister was garlanded at several points before he reached his home around 4pm.

“We have not seen such a rousing reception accorded to any minister, not even Sabitri Mitra (minister of state for women and child development in the Mamata Banerjee cabinet). Even the Congress could not put up such a grand show when Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury was made Union minister of state for health. This shows Krishnenedu’s popularity in Malda — a matter of worry for the Congress in the run up to the Englishbazar by-election. But we have to keep our fingers crossed regarding the results of the poll,” said an observer.

Krishnendu himself was confident that people would not desert him. “I will always stand by the people and work for them. I have worked a lot for the Englishbazar municipality of which I am the chairman. I am now also a minister and will have to work for the entire state. Malda has now two ministers, I and Sabitri Mitra and together we will work for the development of the district,” he said.

Contacted on his mobile phone in Delhi, Malda district Congress president Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury said his party was not bothered about the large turnout at the reception.

“He and Trinamul have organised the felicitation and the people of Malda have come out to see what is going on. Malda has always been a Congress stronghold and will continue to be so. We are not worried; you are the ones who are raising speculations. If the district Congress had organised a reception for me, there would have been the same response. We will hold a reception for my new colleagues in the union government, Deepa Das Munshi and Adhir Chowdhury in Malda soon,” said Abu Hasem.

Asit Bose, a veteran Congress member and a lawyer here, pointed out that the Congress had retained the Englishbazar seat both in 2006 and 2011 elections. “Krishnendu has been winning from Englishbazar on a Congress ticket since 2006 when he rejoined the party. He had lost to the CPM when he contested as a Trinamul candidate in 2001. There are no doubts that he is a good organiser. But we will have to wait for the outcome of the by-election to see whether he wins,” said Bose.

Talking about his portfolio, Krishnendu said he was looking at improving the tourism infrastructure across the state.

“Things have to be streamlined and better facilities provided to visitors whether in Darjeeling or the Sunderbans. I have already spoken to private parties about introducing helicopter services from Siliguri to Darjeeling and from Calcutta to Sunderbans. Departmental officers were asked to submit a status report on tourism soon. North Bengal tourism will get a special focus as more visitors go there and I have called a meeting in Calcutta with all stakeholders of the region on November 27,” said the minister.