Mamata at Writers’ on Tuesday. Picture by Pabitra Das
Calcutta, Jan. 8: Arabul Islam forced chief minister Mamata Banerjee to cut short her rest in the middle of a fever and rush to Writers’ Buildings today.
As images of burning vehicles and injured villagers flashed on TV screens, Mamata, who has high fever, cold and cough, came to Writers’ and held successive meetings with top officials and Trinamul leaders to discuss the fall-out of the repeated clashes in Bhangar.
While leaving Writers’, Mamata said her condition was very bad.
“Khub kharap (very bad),” she said when asked about her health. “It appears to be viral fever. If one doesn’t put on socks, then there is a possibility of catching cold. Then there is tremendous pressure on me. Let me see what I can do about Asansol-Durgapur (the trip on Thursday that she cancelled because of her fever),” Mamata said.
She had skipped office yesterday and cancelled her visits to Nadia and North 24-Parganas because of her illness.
Trinamul sources said Mamata would have preferred to stay at home as had high temperature last night.
“She was running a temperature of around 104 degrees last night accompanied by a bad cough. While she was talking to us this afternoon, she had a shawl wrapped around tightly,” said a senior minister who visited the ailing chief minister last night and was present at the Writers’ meeting.
Another minister said the amount of time Mamata was spending in office and the continuous tours of the districts were taking a toll on her health.
“She is taking too much pressure. The temperature is increasing in the evening,” the minister said.
Sources said that this morning, Mamata was at her Harish Chatterjee Street home when images of the Bamanghata incident was aired on TV.
“As soon as she saw the images on TV, she called up officials and party leaders in Bhangar. She instructed the officials to gather information on the incident by the time she reached Writers’,” a source said.
Mamata also called up industries minister Partha Chatterjee, who was in Haldia to oversee preparations for the upcoming investors’ meet, Bengal Leads, that will be inaugurated by the chief minister on January 15.
Mamata reached Writers’ around 2.35pm. Chief secretary Sanjay Mitra, home secretary Basudeb Banerjee, director-general of police Naparajit Mukherjee and additional director-general (law and order) Surajit Kar Purakayastha were waiting for her. The officials followed the chief minister into her chamber.
“She asked the police brass to find out about the arms used in today’s clash. Right after coming to power, she had instructed the police to seize illegal arms,” a minister said.
The meeting with the officials continued for 30 minutes, after which panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee and mayor Sovan Chatterjee entered Mamata’s chamber.
Partha Chatterjee headed straight for Mamata’s chamber on arriving at Writers’ from Haldia.
Two other ministers, Firhad Hakim and Aroop Biswas, too attended the meeting. Trinamul leader Mukul Roy, who was attending a party programme in Birbhum’s Labhpur, could not rush to Calcutta.
On Mamata’s instruction, Sovan Chatterjee briefed those who arrived late on what happened at Bamanghata.
“She did not like the way the attack was being projected and asked the senior leaders to launch a counter-campaign,” a Trinamul leader said.
The chief minister did not speak to the media on Bhangar and let Partha Chatterjee do the talking.
“Aar kichhu bolbona (I am not going to say a word more),” she said before getting into her car.
Trinamul sources said as Mamata was unwell, she was not keen on talking.
“As she is unwell, she could have lost her cool as uncomfortable questions were bound to be raised,” a senior Trinamul leader said.