Governor M.K. Narayanan at the Gandhi memorial. (Bhabatosh Chakraborty)
If all eyes were on the Brigade Parade Grounds on Thursday, the governor’s glare was on the Trinamul government that failed to send a minister or MLA to Gandhi Ghat on Mahatma Gandhi’s 66th death anniversary.
“…Mujhe dukh hai ki is programme me ek bhi state minister nahin hai (I am sad that no state minister is present at this programme),” M.K. Narayanan said after laying a wreath at the Barrackpore memorial and interacting with volunteers at the adjacent Gandhi Ashram.
Asked whether he knew the reason for their absence, the governor said: “Maloom nahin (I don’t know), ask the chief secretary.”
Chief secretary Sanjay Mitra was present but did not take questions. The other officials in attendance were the district magistrate of North 24-Parganas, Sanjay Bansal, and two additional district magistrates.
The governor had arrived at the venue, off BT Road and about 13km from the city centre, around 9.05am and stayed for 35 minutes.
Narayanan had apparently waited for someone representing the Trinamul government to turn up.
“He waited over 10 minutes before asking for the programme to be started,” a police officer said on condition of anonymity. “Let alone a minister, we did not see even an MLA or MP at the programme.”
Finance minister Amit Mitra, who represents Khardah constituency, had attended last year’s programme at Gandhi Ghat along with a few MLA colleagues.
Sources at Nabanna, the new state secretariat across the Hooghly, said it was “standard practice” for the government to depute at least one minister to attend a state-organised programme involving the governor.
So was no minister able to attend the programme because of compulsory attendance at the Brigade rally?
“What else could it be?” an official said.
The buzz is that at least one minister had been asked to attend the event as the government’s representative. But Trinamul sources said all members of the Mamata Banerjee cabinet were required to be present at the rally venue from 9.30am, coinciding with the programme at Gandhi Ghat.
Asked whether a minister should have attended Thursday’s programme irrespective of any other commitment, governor Narayanan said: “Jaroor, state government ka programme hai, Mahatma Gandhi ka programme (Definitely, this is a state government programme, a programme commemorating Mahatma Gandhi).”
Only one MP, L.K. Advani, out of the 775 members of both Houses of Parliament had turned up to pay homage to Subhas Chandra Bose at a programme organised at the Central Hall of Parliament on Netaji’s birth anniversary on January 23.