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She vs he for Salt Lake chair

Mamata Banerjee took her first step towards local governance after the Trinamul sweep by crowning a chairman of the Salt Lake municipality but then quickly dethroning him with a woman.

This roller-coaster ride left Sabyasachi Dutta red-faced about having earlier responded to congratulatory messages and Anita Mondal initially teary-eyed but then triumphant.

“Sabyasachi Dutta will be the chairman of the municipality,” Mamata had said after meeting 16 Trinamul councillors from Salt Lake — nine of them women — at home. “Anita Mondal will be the vice-chairperson,” she added.

But what of the rule that if a municipality has a majority of elected women candidates, the chairperson must be a woman for the first term after delimitation? Salt Lake has elected 14 women (five CPM) to its 25 wards.

Mamata, without batting an eyelid, made it clear that “if the rule did not allow” Dutta to be chairman, Mondal would be elevated to chairperson.

Mamata was speaking on the sidelines of her announcement of a panel of experts to guide the municipal body (see graphic). But that was quickly drowned in the din of “she or he?”, that rose from Kalighat and reverberated in Salt Lake.

Sources in the government said that the rules pertaining to the appointment of chairperson of municipalities had been framed on the basis of an act passed by the Assembly.

Trinamul MP Mukul Roy said the party has sought a clarification from the state municipal affairs department and the state election commission. “If there’s no provision for the chairperson being a woman, then Sabyasachi will be the chairman and Anita the vice-chairperson. We hope to get a clear picture early next week,” said Roy.

But from where Anita Mondal was seeing it on Friday night, the picture was crystal clear. “The whole of Salt Lake has now become my responsibility. Yes, I am a bit nervous. I seek everyone’s co-operation,” she told Metro.

Was she sure that the chair was hers and not Sabyasachi Dutta’s? “Yes, we have checked about the rule. I did not even dream about the post till Didi told us about this rule,” said the 44-year-old, whose first act as chairperson was to shed a few tears of joy and touch the feet of her father Manoranjan Bhakta, the six-time Congress MP from the Andamans.

Sources said the resident of AH Block who beat the sitting CPM councillor Dilip Ghosh by 78 votes from Ward 4, is being seen as a giant-killer. Her latest victim? Party comrade Sabyasachi Dutta.

The gender rule that kicked in and tripped the 42-year-old Trinamul youth wing secretary made it an evening to forget for the Ward 6 victor.

From responding to congratulatory messages the angry young man was swiftly reduced to switching off his phone and maybe watching Deewar for the 21st time — yes, the Amitabh Bachchan fan has seen the film 20 times.


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