Calcutta, March 16: Saugata Roy today declined to clarify whether he was still a member of the chief minister’s advisory council but the fate of the panel itself has come under a cloud with suggestions that it could soon be dissolved.
Saugata, the designated adviser on industries and IT, had reportedly communicated to the chief minister earlier this month that he be relieved of his advisory role. The veteran has neither confirmed nor denied the report.
Asked on the sidelines of a CII event today whether he was still an adviser, Saugata, who had been invited as an MP to speak on the manufacturing industry, said: “Aamar kono bibriti aachhe ei bishoye? Kono TV channel-e bolechhilam (Had I issued any statement on this? Had I said anything to any TV channel)?”
His statement is being seen as a sign that he is keen to bury a controversy that had embarrassed his party and its government.
However, a larger issue has cropped up. A senior government official told The Telegraph that the chief minister had asked her office to wind up the advisory council, set up last September after Trinamul’s exit from the ruling UPA, after Roy’s reported resignation offer triggered a controversy.
Trinamul sources said the Dum Dum MP had put in his papers after Mamata Banerjee sought an explanation from him on some of his recent comments on the unavailability of land in the state for industry.
The sources said the trigger behind the resignation was Mamata directly telling Saugata he was never an adviser to the chief minister but only to industries and IT minister Partha Chatterjee.
A senior Writers’ Buildings official said the home department had drafted a proposal to dissolve the advisory council under instructions from the chief minister’s office.
“The proposal is now with the state law department for its approval. A notification will be issued if and when the chief minister signs it,” the official said.
Since the advisers were appointed through an official notification, the law department’s nod is needed to dissolve the council.
However, the official added, Mamata has asked the chief secretary and the home secretary to find ways to retain some of the panel members in another committee that would not have official status.
“The plan is to set up a committee but not through a notification. It is not clear whether all the advisers from the existing council will be retained in the committee,” another official said.
A state minister, too, confirmed the move for an unofficial panel.
“The media had taken Saugatada’s comments (on land and industry) very seriously because of his status as adviser on industries. When the chief minister asked him why he had made those comments, he had referred to the letter the chief secretary had issued while appointing him. The chief minister doesn’t want to face such situations in the future,” the minister said.
The decision to disband the council had surprised the home department whose officials had been busy corresponding with the Union law and justice ministry to get the post of “member of the chief minister’s advisory council” exempted from the “office of profit” list for MPs.
“We had been in touch with the Union law and justice ministry since October after the advisory council was set up in September. The ministry had some questions and we replied to those in February,” an official of the department said.
“But we heard the council would be dissolved. The communications with the Centre have now stopped and the process to dissolve the council has started.”
Officials said the formal dissolution order could be issued after the Assembly’s budget session ended on March 22.
On September 29, Mamata had appointed to the council all the seven party MPs who had lost their Union ministry berths because of Trinamul’s pullout from the UPA. The advisers were to get an office and a liaison officer each.
But the arrangement had little effect on the ground because the advisers were hardly ever consulted before the framing of policies. One key reason for Saugata’s resignation, sources had said, was that an industry policy he had drawn up was not adopted.