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Mamata dials President

Calcutta, Feb. 15: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee is learnt to have taken to President Pranab Mukherjee her grievances against governor M.K. Narayanan after his statement on the police chief’s transfer.

In the absence of official confirmation, several versions were in the air about the chief minister’s reported call to the President. But sources said the call was informal in nature and cannot be termed a formal complaint against the governor who had yesterday said that if the police chief was “removed for what happened in the last few days, quite clearly there is something wrong….”

Narayanan had also said in reply to a question on the ruling party in Bengal that “I presume they should be asked whether they are capable of running a government or not”.

Trinamul leader Partha Chatterjee had met the governor today for what sources close to the minister said was a pre-budget meeting. But other sources said the meeting was unscheduled.

Former Trinamul central minister Sultan Ahmed said tonight that “the governor should not act as a former police officer” but “as governor of the state”.

Trinamul sources said the chief minister met senior party leaders Mukul Roy and Partha Chatterjee at her home this afternoon, where she expressed her unhappiness with the way minister Firhad Hakim handled the entire episode. The sources claimed that she also mentioned that Hakim had “misinformed” her by saying that Mukhtar had fired at Chowdhury.

However, it is possible that Mamata made the reported statements for the consumption of Chatterjee. Following the Garden Reach firing, some leaders led by Chatterjee and mayor Sovan Chatterjee were publicly expressing their unhappiness with Hakim and seeking action against him.

In the light of the ouster of the police commissioner, Hakim appears to be politically safe for the time being, unless fresh revelations make him a big liability.

“She made it clear that any apparent action against Hakim at this juncture would cause damage to both the party and the government… For the time being, Hakim has been advised to lie low,” said a Trinamul insider.

In the recent months, Hakim, an MLA from Calcutta Port, got the position of the most trusted lieutenant of Mamata and has been handling the affairs of Calcutta police, minority affairs and various other key issues.

The rise of Hakim in the Trinamul echelons — the urban development minister had announced the recent shuffle in the CMC’s mayoral council instead of Sovan — had caused heartburn in some sections of the party.

Against this backdrop, the message from Mamata that Hakim would not face any action as of now is significant as it proves that his position in the party is secure.

It is believed that Roy, who has always found Hakim by his side in the inner-party power struggle, requested Mamata to steer clear of taking any action against Hakim in view of its potential impact.

“Roy told her that any public rebuke of Hakim would have a negative impact on the party’s organisation in the port area and the entire south Calcutta, to which Mamata agreed,” the source said.

The chief minister, however, said there would be no let- up on Munna, who has been referred to in the FIR on Chowdhury’s murder. She added that the police would also have to arrest Mukhtar.

Till late this evening, both Munna and Mukhtar were at large and sources in the CID — which took up the probe from Calcutta police last night — said they had started the hunt for the duo and some other accused in the case.

“There is a possibility that Munna may surrender soon,” said a Trinamul insider, while adding that efforts had already started to convince him to surrender before the court. However, the source would not comment if it would be a token arrest and whether the tough FIR against him would be retained as such.

With Mamata giving the go-ahead for action against Munna — whom Hakim was trying to protect — it was decided at the end of the meeting that the message has to be conveyed to the governor.

Source said Chatterjee met Narayanan following the meeting with Mamata. Contacted, Chatterjee confirmed that he was with Narayanan for about half an hour, but refused to divulge what transpired between them.

Roy, however, iterated the official line behind the transfer today while speaking to reporters in Rejinagar in Murshidabad.

“In the Garden Reach incident, action by the police was delayed. The chief minister was peeved over this and transferred R.K. Pachnanda. The chief minister herself is the home minister, so she orders such transfers.”