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Wednesday , November 28 , 2012
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Mamata takes mayor to task

- Portfolio shuffle with administrator threat

Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday blasted mayor Sovan Chatterjee and all 11 mayoral council members for the “unsatisfactory” performance of the civic body her party has been ruling since June 2010 and shuffled their departments.

“I am not at all satisfied with the way the Calcutta Municipal Corporation is being run…. If this continues, I may supersede the board and depute an administrator,” a source quoted the chief minister as telling Chatterjee & Co. at a 75-minute meeting in her room at Writers’ before reassigning their portfolios.

Before entering Mamata’s room, the mayor and mayoral council members had an hour-long meeting with municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim.

Mamata’s threat to supersede the board set the tone of the meeting as the chief minister started pulling up one civic boss after another, starting with Sovan.

“What are you doing? Do you know the entire city is full of illegal buildings? Have you taken any action?” the chief minister is said to have asked the mayor.

Sources present at the meeting told Metro that Sovan, a close aide of Mamata since her days as a student leader, was taken aback. “Our revenues have gone up this year in comparison to last year,” he replied in an attempt to defend his reign.

But that perhaps left the champion of populism even angrier. “Yes, you have increased revenues by raising the (property) tax burden on common people, I know,” Mamata shot back.

The exchange between the chief minister and her handpicked mayor remained a topic of discussion among Trinamul leaders till late on Tuesday as they tried to figure out the trigger behind the sudden grand slam.

An insider said the assessment and reassignment of departments held by mayoral council members — six days after the state cabinet expansion and reshuffle — are aimed at sending a message to other party leaders.

“The civic body’s reputation has suffered in recent months following the controversy over trident lamps. The party’s image, too, has taken a hit following accusations that some leaders are taking cut money. Her hyper-activism is a signal that she is worried over the state of affairs and will not spare anyone,” said a Trinamul insider.

Though some of her aides tried to play down the significance of Tuesday’s actions saying the chief minister had effected the reshuffle to ensure efficiency, some of her decisions made it clear that she had politics in mind.

Debabrata Mazumdar, who was looking after conservancy and revenue departments, lost revenue to Sovan in the reshuffle. Sources in the civic body said Mazumdar paid the price for trying to widen the tax net by bringing colony areas under property tax assessment.

“Conservancy work is not properly done…. You better concentrate on keeping the city clean,” Mamata apparently told Mazumdar.

Though Sovan got back the revenue portfolio — it was taken away from him a few months ago — he lost roads and engineering to Atin Ghosh, who looks after the health department.

The performance of the civic health department came under attack after the outbreak of dengue, prompting Mamata to admit “deficiencies” in the civic body’s attempt in controlling vector-borne diseases.

The sources said the mayor had been on sticky wicket following the controversy over trident lamps. Metro had on November 20 reported how the civic authorities sold trident lamps, made at a CMC workshop, to Maheshtala Municipality at Rs 9,600 each while it procured the lamps by paying Rs 15,100. The chairman of Mahestala Municipality, Dulal Das, is the mayor’s father--n-law.

Tarak Singh, the MMIC in-charge of Entally workshop and tubewells, had to pay a price for the controversy as he was given the charge of slum development.

“The buzz is that she will do another round of reassignment in some time,” said a source.