Mayor Sovan Chatterjee and his entire team received a tongue-lashing from Mamata Banerjee for poor performance, yet he was probably the only one who walked out of Writers’ Buildings on Tuesday with a chuckle.
The chief minister handed back the revenue department to Chatterjee, a responsibility she had apparently relieved him of some months ago.
“Tax assessment and collection is one of the most important departments in the civic body. Chatterjee now has three key departments in his hands — building, finance and accounts, and tax assessment and collection,” pointed out a Trinamul Congress leader.
The largest chunk of CMC’s revenue comes by way of taxes and trade licence, Rs 450 crore per year.
Mamata’s relationship with Chatterjee is too close for her to judge him by performance alone, feel many in the political circle. “She may be unhappy with Chatterjee’s performance but he is still one of the few she trusts,” said a party leader.
“They are associated in at least three ways. Officially, she is the chief minister and he is the mayor and they are colleagues at Trinamul. But the most important link is the personal association: Mamata considers Chatterjee her younger brother. She calls him by his nickname Kanan,” added the leader.
Besides holding the post of mayor, Chatterjee is the Behala East MLA and the president of the party’s South 24-Parganas district cell.
“He is one of the few with access to Mamata,” said the leader. Proximity may have helped Chatterjee win back the assessment and collection department from Debabrata Majumdar, who had defected to Trinamul from the BJP before the 2010 civic elections.
The measures Majumdar, a chartered accountant, took to increase revenue collection may also have displeased Mamata. Under Majumdar — who “unlike Chatterjee, did not consult Mamata for every single decision” — the civic body had collected significantly more property tax than last year.
He tried to widen the tax net to the colonies. There are many multi-storeyed houses in colony areas whose owners are paying tax for a single room. Advertising agencies evading tax were made to pay up. According to sources, their politically well-connected owners complained to the right people that they had been overcharged.
Mamata, who is unhappy with non-populist measures, apparently clipped Majumdar’s wings without giving him a chance to explain his steps.
The removal of mayoral council member Tarak Singh as the head of the Entally workshop was another victory of sorts for Chatterjee. It was proved that the trident lights the CMC had bought for at least Rs 15,100 each could be manufactured at the workshop for Rs 9,600.
The state finance department on Wednesday transferred chief municipal auditor Biplab Guha Roy from the post. He was to examine the special audit report related to the trident lights. A city based firm is preparing the report. Guha Roy has been transferred to a Kalyani engineering college.