The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani to clean Calcutta blot
- Deputy PM sends emissaries for river-bank makeover

Oct. 6: L.K. Advani does not like Calcutta. Says who'

“Concerned” at the state of Calcutta’s ghats on the banks of the Hooghly, the deputy Prime Minister — still fresh from the brouhaha he sparked by his apparently innocuous “I don’t like Calcutta as much as I’m impressed by the Metro” admission while inaugurating Delhi’s own Metro — today took the decision to send no less than two Union ministers to the city for an on-the-spot inspection.

A 40-minute meeting with Trinamul Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyay — who has just come out of a controversy sparked by the apparently innocuous tea party he hosted for central BJP leaders after his party decided to sever links with the BJP-led NDA — was all it took Advani to reach the decision at Delhi today.

Although Bandopadhyay — all smiles after the meeting — declined to help the media read anything politically significant into the deputy Prime Minister’s decision, it’s undeniable that Calcutta’s ghats would have the two politically significant developments to thank if they receive any attention.

Bandopadhyay’s constituency (Calcutta-Northwest) covers most of the city’s Hooghly bank from Cossipore Ghat in the north to Prinsep Ghat in the centre. The well known of the city’s 30-odd more-frequented ghats, like Babughat, Baje Ghat, Gwalior Ghat, Nimtala Ghat, Ahiritala Ghat, Bagbazar Ghat and Sarbamangala Ghat, besides Cossipore, fall in this less-than-10-km stretch.

In Calcutta, Bandopadhyay had promised — after a cruise earlier this week down the portion of the Hooghly that spans his constituency — he would use his office to prod the Centre into pumping Rs 30 crore into the ill-maintained ghats and turn the stretch into something like Mumbai’s talked-about Marine Drive.

Political circles — particularly those in Trinamul, a party whose leadership appeared to have little love lost for him after Bandopadhyay’s tea-party for the BJP leaders — immediately read into the promise a well-thought-out preparation for drifting further from the parent party. They felt that by using his new-found proximity with BJP leaders, Bandopadhyay is actually trying to prove to his party — and voters — that it is politically more beneficial to stay on with a party that is still in power at the Centre.

Today’s Advani-Bandopadhyay tête-à-tête, after which the former decided to depute tourism minister Jagmohan and transport minister Ved Prakash Goyal for a close look at the dirty ghats after the puja holidays, could be a confirmation of that theory.

Bandopadhyay, however, averred that politics was the last thing on their minds when they spoke of Calcutta’s ghats. The deputy Prime Minister was so “concerned” about the 26 ghats, each having a history of its own, that he “immediately” agreed to send the two ministers without waiting for a second request, he told The Telegraph.

All the ghats now present a gloomy picture with the ill-maintained tracks of the Circular Railway running along hooch vends, unauthorised garages and construction.

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