The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayor breaks rebel ranks in council

A fortnight after rebellion shook the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), mayor Subrata Mukherjee regained ground by breaking the rebels’ ranks.

The erosion of the alliance of the seven ‘rebels’ within the mayoral council was clear from the attendance at the first meeting after the clash on Monday. Only three of the seven members attended the session, presided over by the mayor.

Pradip Ghosh, member in charge of health, Moinul Haque Chowdhury, handling education, and Hridayanand Gupta, with the parks and gardens portfolio, had, two weeks ago, sworn to avenge their “humiliation” by municipal commissioner Debasish Som. On Monday, they shook hands with Mukherjee, signalling a realignment of forces.

Javed Khan (slum development), Swapan Samaddar (buildings), Mala Roy (drainage and sewerage), Anup Chatterjee (roads) and Samsuzzaman Ansari (markets and lighting) stayed away from the Monday meet. They stuck to the demand for removal of Som, whom the seven had manhandled in a tussle for power, bringing the Trinamul in the CMC to flashpoint.

Som, however, was present at Monday’s meet, and there was no overt show of hostility. Mukherjee now appears to have the support of five members — including Rajib Deb (conservancy) and Shovan Chatterjee (water) — against the five who refuse to fall in line, believed to be depending on party chief Mamata Banerjee for support .

“The party decided the commissioner should go. We will not take part in the mayoral council meetings as long as Som remains commissioner,” said Anup Chatterjee from Mumbai. “Som conspired to have us arrested. I will not attend meetings as long as he is present,” said Javed Khan.

Mala Roy’s new portfolio, drainage, which includes waterlogging management in the city, has left her facing flak with the arrival of the monsoon. The mayor’s visit to Behala on Sunday to look into the waterlogging problem there, accompanied by Shovan Chatterjee instead of her, was a further slight. Mukherjee made clear that the plight of the residents of five wards could be improved had the drainage chief taken early action.

The rift between Roy and Shovan Chatterjee grew after she denied being updated by councillors on the problem. But Chatterjee put the blame on Roy’s unhappiness with her new portfolio. Roy was quick to contact Anup Chatterjee in Mumbai to gather support, who defended his colleague, saying Roy, just a week old in the department, could not be held responsible for its problems.

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