| Mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Wednesday: Muzzle me not
Going by appearances, it was reunion time for the Class of 2000. But the appearances on Wednesday morning were as deceptive as they come.
There were smiles all around and photo-ops galore, but the strain — and, indeed, the split — was showing, as members of mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s council, dissolved on Monday and arrested on Tuesday, took fresh oath on Wednesday at the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) headquarters.
One comment from the leader of the pack, Mukherjee himself, summed up how different 2003 was from 2000. “I, for one, would not have come back to be sworn in as member of the mayor-in-council after all that happened over the past few days,” he said, fixed smile not masking the great divide between the mayor and most of his council members.
But all 10 members of the old council, including the seven who were charged with assaulting municipal commissioner Debasish Som on Monday, turned up to be sworn in as members of the new council.
The oaths of office were read out amid concerted efforts to show that all’s well that ends well, but the daggers were out as soon as it became clear that Mukherjee had effected a reshuffle, aimed at hitting where it hurts most.
The “money-spinning” conservancy department was taken out of the mayor’s alleged “enemy no.1” Mala Roy’s hands and entrusted with loyalist Rajib Deb. Roy got Deb’s department (drainage).
Health was taken away from Javed Ahmed Khan and handed over to another rebel, Pradip Ghosh, who will have to carry on the battle with officer on special duty (health) Atanu Mukherjee.
Another rebel, Anup Chatterjee, found that the mayor had taken away the more “lucrative” half of his roads and engineering portfolio, leaving him only with roads.
The deed (some called it “dirty”) done, and the flight to Naples just a few hours away, the mayor aimed another dig — this time at Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee.
Asked what the party had gained by coming right back to where it stood three days ago, after three days of high drama, Mukherjee said: “This should be addressed to the person who ordered the dismantling and the reshuffle.”
Mamata had been sounded out on the new departments, mayor Mukherjee stressed, adding that a reshuffle was, “anyway, overdue”.
And he brushed away talk of internal trouble, with a barb aimed this time at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani have their share of differences of opinion,” smiled Mukherjee, before rushing off, promising to be back on June 18 to chalk out the future role of Debasish Som.
Som, meanwhile, stayed away from one red building, but surfaced in another. At Writers’ Buildings, he met chief secretary S.N. Roy and municipal affairs secretary D. Mukhopadhyay, and then said: “I have not attended office due to personal reasons. I will be back at work from Thursday.”