Mamata's whimsy riles West Bengal opposition

Kolkata, Feb 17 (IANS) "It's my way or the highway": that is the perception political rivals have of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's style of functioning.

Her loyalists, however, find fault with the constant media scrutiny and criticism of her regime.

Political circles here are abuzz, after Banerjee removed R.K. Pachnanda from the post of commissioner of police, Kolkata, over his "failure to timely nab the culprits", responsible for shooting a policeman dead in the city in broad daylight.

Pachnanda was Thursday replaced by Surajit Kar Purakayastha as city police chief.

While some think Pachnanda's transfer to the less significant post of additional director general (security), is mere bureaucratic routine, there are others who say Pachnanda got the sack for taking a personal initiative in nabbing Sheikh Shubhaan, the man whom cameras caught firing that fatal shot, Feb 12, killing policeman Tapas Chowdhury.

Pachnanda had also named Mohammad Iqbal in the First Information Report. Iqbal is an influential Trinamool Congress leader from the city's Garden Reach area, where the policeman was shot dead from close range while trying to control clashing college students.

"She (Banerjee) has been behaving like a despot, running the government whimsically. Whoever within her administration does anything against her wish has to face the music," Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) state secretariat member Rabin Deb told IANS.

"In Mamata's book, it is either her way or the highway," Deb said.

The Congress, too, was unequivocal in criticising the move.

Union minister of state for railway Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury described Pachnanda as a "scapegoat", sacrificed to save the skin of some Trinamool leaders allegedly involved in the incident.

"The state government considers it as a crime when police officers try to work impartially. The transfer has been made to save some influential Trinamool leaders," Chowdhury said.

State panchayat minister Subrata Mukherje differed: "This is just a routine transfer," he said.

Pachnanda is only the latest to have suffered the chief minister's wrath.

Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Damayanti Sen, was shunted out to the police training department last April, weeks after cracking the sensational Park Street rape case which Banerjee had initially dubbed as fabricated.

Sen cracked the case and arrested most of the culprits, only to find herself shifted as deputy inspector general of police, (training), Barrackpore.

However, last week she was given a new assignment: Deputy Inspector General (Darjeeling Range). The posting comes at a time when the northern Bengal hills are on the boil, after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha fell out with the Trinamool government and revived the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

In January, additional district magistrate (Asansol) of Burdwan district Jayanta Aikat was sent to 'compulsory waiting' after he reportedly refused to heed Banerjee and organise a parade of over 2,000 girls on bicycles at the venue where the vehicles were handed out to them.

Nandini Chakravarty, who had for long been one of Banerjee's most trusted bureaucrats and had four key responsibilities simultaneously - managing director of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, CEO of West Bengal Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation, director of West Bengal Trade Promotion Organisation and secretary Information and Cultural Affairs, was Tuesday shifted as editor, West Bengal State Gazetters (WBSG), considered an inconsequential post.

It's not only government servants, even artists have not been spared.

Famous painter Samir Aich, known for his spirited defence of the Banerjee regime on TV news channels, found himself at the receiving end when he took part in a candlelight march in protest against the suicide of a Muslim youth allegedly harassed by the police.

The Trinamool supremo questioned Aich's role in bringing political change in the state, and even called him a CPI-M man.

Aich later quit two key panels, including the Fine Arts Board that he headed.

College teacher Suman Bandopadhyay counsels patience: "It's unfortunate, the way every move Banerjee makes is criticised. The constant scrutiny is not doing the state any good. It's only a 20-month-old government. We need to give her time. If she takes some strong step for the betterment of the state, we need to be patient and wait for the outcome."

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