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Mamata puts babus on job

Calcutta, May 30: Business casuals will replace kurta-pyjamas on frequent flights to Delhi as Mamata Banerjee cuts Bengal’s coat according to the cloth in Delhi.

Bureaucrats from Bengal will visit the national capital regularly to meet officials of the central ministries to try and ensure that the funds flow to the state does not dry up.

This is a marked departure from the practice of sending senior ministers such as Amit Mitra or Subrata Mukherjee to meet UPA ministers. Mamata herself had gone to Delhi on several occasions to discuss financial packages for the state.

The change is being seen as a reflection of Mamata’s eagerness to keep political distance from the BJP-led government and address concerns on how the state would ensure its interests are taken care of.

With Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik, whose names are occasionally tied to a so-far chimeric federal front, firming up meetings with Modi, the spotlight has shifted to the course of the Bengal chief minister.

Mamata’s decision to send bureaucrats was first hinted at during a performance review of departments at Town Hall on Wednesday. Later, she explained to a few secretaries at Nabanna that she wanted the officials to play an active role in securing funds from Delhi, senior officials said.

“The chief minister categorically instructed that secretaries of departments should liaise with the top officials of ministries in Delhi and secure central funds for their departments,” an official said.

Today, at a closed-door meeting at Netaji Indoor Stadium, Mamata told her party leaders that the ruling establishment in Bengal would keep a sharp watch on the activities of the Modi regime.

“They (the BJP) have come to power recently. We will keep a watch on how they function,” Mamata was quoted as saying by a party leader.

During the UPA government, visits by Trinamul ministers — and Mamata herself — had failed to fulfil the state government’s main demand for a three-year moratorium on past loans but crores of rupees were given by the Centre as special funds.

The Centre had allotted a special fund of Rs 8,750 crore for backward regions of Bengal soon after the change of guard at Writers’. Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee’s liaison with then Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh had helped Bengal secure an additional sum of Rs 4,000 crore to develop roads in rural areas.

“But this time, the role has to be played by the officials because the ministers in Bengal would not visit Delhi. But we feel the state can get more funds than the regular allotments only through political connections,” said an official.

A few secretaries said they would start working on the Delhi mission after they returned from Mamata’s review of three north Bengal districts at Uttarkanya, the north Bengal branch secretariat at Siliguri, on June 2.

“The first target would be to ensure that we secure the funds that we did not get in the last financial year. The state was supposed to get central funds worth Rs 21,000 crore for various projects in the 2013-14 financial year but we got only around Rs 15,000 crore,” said a finance department official.