Kolkata confidential

Even as the Lok Sabha polls approach,the temperature at TMC chief Mamata Banerjee’s residence-cum-office is rising.

Written by Express News Service | Kolkata | Published:March 9, 2009 3:00 am

The Indian Express showcases news from the City of Joy that was off camera and outside inverted commas

Wrongfooted ‘by CPM’?
Even as the Lok Sabha polls approach,the temperature at TMC chief Mamata Banerjee’s residence-cum-office is rising. At one of the daily media conferences,Banerjee was fielding questions in the packed room on the proposed alliance with the Congress. All at once,a question from a TV scribe regarding her relationship with newly-inducted vice-president Abu Ayesh Mondal,who joined after quitting the CPM,had Mamata all afire. Accusing the journalist of having been “coached by the CPM” and sent to her press conference,she lambasted him for two full minutes,during which she claimed CPM-backed Students Federation of India (SFI) workers had entered her press conference on an earlier occasion,masquerading as scribes.
She then proceeded to instruct leader Madan Mitra on vetting the media,and handed him the responsibility of ensuring that unwanted elements did not enter. “I respect the press,but if I am not able to control who enters here in the name of the press I would rather not meet the media,” Mamata fumed before returning to fielding questions.

Lanka-kaand
Mani Ratnam’s shoot of Raavana has left photojournalists scrambling for pictures. The unprecedented secrecy and speculations surrounding the shoot has left shutterbugs keeping vigil at the locations at all unearthly hours. Posted in front of the Agarpara Jute Mill guesthouse,where ladders to scale walls were brought almost in vain,people were heard cooking up ideas to get one precious picture. “What if we get some cows to stand in the way of her car? The car has to wait,enough time to take pictures,” mused one. “It’s difficult to get cows do what they don’t have in mind. Wish we had learnt a bit of cattle handling,” laughed another. Are the Bengali paparazzi ready to give the French a run for their money?

Kid-glove treatment
The upcoming Lok Sabha polls has thrown a big challenge for the ruling CPM. Not only are they apprehensive about a loss of votes to the Congress-TMC combine,but the jittery allies are skewing the pitch further. As the top brass at Alimuddin Street rope in other parties at the state level,reports are steadily trickling in about the quarrels between LF partners at the block-level and the sub-division level.
Since the Nandigram and Singur episode was “over”,the Marxists thought a LF unity at the grassroot level would be easily achieved. But according to sources,the Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party supporters are at the loggerheads with CPM cadres. The information has given some sleepless nights to the CPM bosses. If the Bloc and RSP do not rally,the consequences might be worse for the CPM. So,Alimuddin Street has asked its cadres throughout the state to avoid confrontation with supporters of smaller partners.

Narrow shave
At the recent inauguration of an IT exhibition,a major protocol faux pas was just about averted. Chief Minister Buddhdeb Bhattacharjee began his address by welcoming everybody on the dais — except that he forgot to welcome the Vice President of El Salvador,Her Excellency Ms Ana Vilma Albanez de Escobar,who was a special guest at the event. This is in spite of the fact that all addresses by the Chief Minister are usually preceded by a practice address. As Bhattacharjee proceeded to leave the podium,concluding his welcome address,one of his securitymen — prompted by IT Minister Debesh Das — presumably apprised him of his error in a whisper. A visibly embarrassed Bhattacharjee immediately rectified it,apologising profusely.

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