Buddha safe: he's hit with only legal notice

Calcutta, Feb. 6: The state government has popped two cure-all pills for all the ailments assailing Bengal: Mamata Banerjee's honesty and a legal notice to uphold its patent.

Mukul Roy, the all-India general secretary of Trinamul, sent a legal notice to former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee this evening for comments during an interview with television channel 24 Ghanta.

A few hours before the notice was served at the CPM headquarters on Alimuddin Street, minister Firhad Hakim launched an attack on Bhattacharjee for committing a "sin".

"He has talked about a leader whose honesty nobody can question…. We believe in her principles and honesty…. The people of Bengal believe her. Uni ja bolechhen seta anyay, paap (What he has said is wrong, sin)," Hakim told a news conference, convened to rebut the issues Bhattacharjee had raised in two TV interviews aired yesterday.

From lack of industrialisation in the state under the Trinamul regime to deterioration in law and order, the former chief minister had raised several issues during a two-hour interview to ABP Ananda.

In another interview to 24 Ghanta, Bhattacharjee said he did not agree that Mamata was honest when the interviewer said that people consider her as a symbol of honesty. "I hold a different view. I don't agree that Mamata is a symbol of honesty," Bhattacharjee said.

Asked what had prompted him to say this, the former chief minister said: "You probe it. The situation of her family in the past and what it is now. Let it be investigated. In my yardstick I cannot place her as honest."

Although Hakim said that it was not a "legal matter" and there was no chance of starting any defamation suit, Trinamul sources leaked the news about a legal notice to Bhattacharjee in the evening.

Rajdeep Mazumdar, the lawyer representing Roy, confirmed that a legal notice had been sent to Bhattacharjee, informing him that he would have to face a defamation suit if he didn't tender an apology in 48 hours.

"Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee questioned the chief minister's honesty in 24 Ghanta. The comments that he made against her family members were defamatory. She is the Trinamul supremo and a symbol of honesty," Mazumdar said.

While the Trinamul camp scrambled to uphold Mamata's honesty, no one stepped forward to come up with answers on the other issues concerning the future of Bengal that the former chief minister had flagged during the two interviews.

A fundamental question with far-reaching consequences was where the children of Bengal would go after they pass from numerous technical institutes in the state.

A direct fallout of industry's reservations on Bengal has been felt by engineering and management institute campuses, said the placement head of a private engineering college.

"Companies are either not coming for campus interviews or reducing the intake of fresh graduates. Almost all the institutes in the state are suffering," the professor said.

Although Mamata has claimed several times that her government has created 2 lakh jobs and the private sector another 8 lakh, several senior officials have raised questions about the veracity of the number.

Bhattacharjee had echoed the same concern, asking about the state of industry, employment opportunities in Bengal and the government's priorities.

When Hakim convened the news conference, he restricted himself to talking about Mamata's honesty.

"He is talking about a woman who has dedicated her entire life to the people. He doesn't know what he is talking about…. We want to know whether he has the right to question her honesty," asked Hakim, who refused to take specific questions at the news conference.

Hakim's reluctance to speak on the substantive issues with data-driven rebuttals was in line with a tendency among leaders associated with Trinamul to steer clear of specific answers.

Take the case of industry minister Parth Chatterjee, who has never missed an opportunity to crow about the government's achievements in attracting investment proposals worth over Rs 1 lakh crore in less than 20 months. He has, however, not given a detailed break-up of the proposals or the rate of implementation of the projects.

BJP state president Rahul Sinha said one should not expect any answer from Trinamul leaders as the party leaders were in a "mode of denial".

"They live in their own world of fantasy and believe in what their leader is saying and then repeat the same claims. One cannot engage in a substantive argument with them," said Sinha. "Nobody can ask her (Mamata) anything and that's the rule," he added.

Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra echoed Sinha while addressing party workers at Maniktala. "One can't question her…. Why can't her honesty be questioned? Onar jiban i ki onar bani (Is her life her teachings)? Is she an icon?" asked Mishra.

It was not known till late tonight if a legal notice had been sent to Mishra, too.

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