March 9: Apart from Pakistan Premier Raja Pervez Ashraf, the Ajmer Sharif dargah had another ministerial visitor today: Bengal’s Firhad (Bobby) Hakim.
He arrived with his wife and daughters on a private visit, seemingly without the knowledge of his Trinamul colleagues in Bengal, but denied the trip had anything to do with Thursday’s arrest of fugitive Mohammad Iqbal (Munna) who is close to him.
“I didn’t come here for special blessings for anything,” Hakim, who has arrived without a party or security entourage, told The Telegraph over the phone from Ajmer.
His arrival in Ajmer coincided with Munna, a Calcutta borough chairman accused in the daylight murder of a policeman at Garden Reach, being brought to the Bengal capital from Bihar, where he was nabbed.
Munna had yesterday said he had been instructed by Trinamul leaders to go underground for a few days but didn’t name anyone.
Asked about this, Hakim said: “Munna said all this yesterday but I don’t have any idea why he said all this. My visit has nothing to do with the Munna controversy.”
He added: “I have been coming here as a devotee, especially because I was born to my mother five years after her marriage. She had come here seeking blessings for a son. It is a sort of thanksgiving to the Sufi saint. This is my third visit to the shrine since I became minister (in May 2011).”
Hakim, the urban development and municipal affairs minister, had come under criticism for trying to publicly shield Munna after the February 12 murder.
In Calcutta, Trinamul circles expressed surprise that Hakim was missing from the two events that chief minister Mamata Banerjee attended today. They seemed unaware that the minister was in Ajmer.
“This is very surprising. He had been regularly attending government programmes with the chief minister, even after the Garden Reach incident. Most other senior party leaders attended the two events graced by the chief minister,” a senior Trinamul minister said.
At Netaji Indoor stadium Mamata addressed a meeting, organised by the Trinamul-affiliated government employees’ federation, where Mukul Roy and ministers Subrata Mukherjee, Partha Chatterjee, Purnendu Bose, Chandrima Bhattacharya and Arup Roy were present.
Next, Mamata went to the Town Hall to felicitate rescuers who had battled the Surya Sen market fire. Hakim wasn’t there, either.
“On the day of the tragedy, he was at the spot with Mamatadi. We had expected him here today,” said a Trinamul leader.
Some Trinamul leaders, however, wondered whether Hakim had been asked to stay away from the public glare for a while after Munna’s arrival in the city.
“Probably, Mamatadi wants to keep him safe from the media glare now that Munna is back in Calcutta and is being questioned,” a Trinamul youth leader suggested.
Hakim has checked into a hotel near the Ajmer shrine. He said he would be leaving tomorrow.