Mamata Banerjee after inaugurating Nabanna on Saturday
Mamata Banerjee stumped two IAS officers by posing a question after touring Nabanna, the replacement secretariat, and stepping into her new office: “What if I start liking this place and don’t want to go back to Writers’?”
According to sources who recounted the conversation, the officers told Mamata that as chief minister, she can easily keep two offices — to which she smiled.
Enter, the convoy: Mamata’s cavalcade pulled up in front of the main entrance of Nabanna at 12.43pm. Alighting, she headed to a podium.
Finance minister Amit Mitra, agriculture minister Malay Ghatak, transport minister Madan Mitra, agricultural marketing minister Arup Roy, urban development minister Firhad Hakim and senior officials, including chief secretary Sanjay Mitra and home secretary Basudeb Banerjee, were waiting to receive her.
At 12.44pm, Mamata hoisted the national flag and took a guard of honour from Calcutta police.
Enter, the CM: The main glass door was kept open and the chief minister walked in, wearing a smile. Officers escorted her to the VIP lift No. 1. She stepped into the lift with the secretary to the chief minister, Goutam Sanyal, the finance minister and the chief secretary.
She got off on the 14th floor and entered her chamber. Immediately after entering her office, she called top officials including chief secretary Mitra, home secretary Banerjee, PWD secretary Indevar Pandey, land reforms commissioner A.K. Singh and I&CA secretary Atri Bhattacharya.
Standing ovation: Several ministers were then asked to come in. Once they settled down, Mamata said the public works department had done “exceptional work” by converting the building into a full-fledged secretariat in a short time and should be given a standing ovation.
“Nobody expected that this could be done on time. This proves that if the government wants to do something, it can do so. Please give a standing ovation to the PWD,” said the chief minister. She was the first to rise, followed by the others. A round of applause followed.
Birthday celebration: The first day in office was soon turned into a birthday celebration for Nabanna. “Today is the birthday of Nabanna.... Let’s have some sweets,” she said. Sweets were distributed among the ministers.
Conducted tour: Around 1.30pm, Mamata rode the lift to the 13th floor to have a look at the offices of the chief secretary and the home secretary. The chief minister was heard telling officials that she liked the decoration and the ambience.
She took the lift again and reached the first floor, which has a media corner. She entered the press corner and sat in a sofa. Soon, there was chaos and she stood up. “Nabanner jonmodiney ektu mishtimukh korben apnara.... Sharodiyar subhechchha roilo (Please taste these sweets on the birthday of Nabanna.... Wish you all ahead of the festive season),” the chief minister said before returning to her chamber.
Award for employees: She called up the chief secretary and told him she wanted to give some awards to the employees and officers who had worked hard to convert the HRBC building into a secretariat.
The chief secretary sent a note to the PWD secretary, informing him about the chief minister’s wishes. The PWD secretary will select the recipients.
Tea break: Around 1.55pm, after settling down in her room — it has a bamboo-crafted partition and a portrait of Tagore — Mamata asked for a cup of tea. The beverage arrived from the kitchen adjoining her chamber.
Time for visitors: Around 2.30pm, the chief minister called for guests who had been waiting for her in the visitors’ room adjacent to her chamber. The same floor has another room for visitors.
Tour of terrace: As clouds gathered in the skies and the windspeed increased, the chief minister decided to tour the terrace above her office. A few visitors in tow, Mamata took the flight of stairs. She spent around 15 minutes there, enjoying the breeze and the sights, the sources said.
CMO’s big task: The CMO had a relatively relaxed day. The officials were busy handling invites from countless committees that have requested Mamata to inaugurate their Pujas.
Calls it a day: At 5.17pm, Mamata stepped out of her room and, along with a few visitors, took the VIP lift. Her destination: a Puja at Jodhpur Park. The walkie-talkies crackled: “VIP leaving for ground floor.”
The chief minister paused before boarding her car and said: “I shall come here for two to three hours a day before the Puja holidays.... I shall be spending the rest of the time at Puja pandals.”