State urban development and municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim today said that his sharing of the dais with senior Marxist leader and chairperson of the board of administrators (BoA) of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) Asok Bhattacharya would have no political significance. Mr Bhattacharya today discussed some projects related to Siliguri with the minister.

Mr Hakim will share the dais with the former urban development and municipal affairs minister when they will unveil a statue of Mahatma Gandhi amid a programme of the civic body here tomorrow. The statue will come up near the Siliguri Post Office on Kutchery Road.

“It is not an issue of political parties, it is not an issue of the CPI-M and Congress, but an administrative matter. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee respects the Oppositions. It is not about sharing the stage by CPI-M and Trinamul Congress leaders, but the municipal affairs minister and the chairman of the BoA of the civic body,” Mr Hakim said. Citing an example, he said that former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had inaugurated a 14-feet tall statue of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the ITC Park in 2003 when the present panchayat & rural development department minister, Subarata Mukherjee, had been the Kolkata Municipal Corporation mayor.

The SMC has also invited PWD minister Aroop Biswas as the chief guest and state tourism minister Gautam Deb as the special guest for tomorrow’s programme. Mr Hakim will become the first state minister to inaugurate a statue or a project or attend a programme of the civic body in the last five years. The tenure of the elected Left Front board ended on 17 May, and the state government has nominated the BoA to run the corporation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Many view the development as significant since the BJP is breathing down around Trinamul Congress neck.

“It has no political connection, not with the BJP,” Mr Hakim, however, said.

Mr Bhattacharya also spoke on the same lines as Mr Hakim.

“We had sought the intervention of Mr Hakim after the PWD filed an FIR when we proceeded to install the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on Kutchery Road as the land is owned by the department. The minister intervened and the issue was settled. Since his intervention helped install the statue, we invited him,” he said.

Meanwhile, the BoA led by Mr Bhattacharya met Mr Hakim to discuss some important projects of Siliguri today. According to Mr Bhattacharya, they demanded the approval of a comprehensive water supply project (Rs 352 crore) for Siliguri, approval for a detailed project report of the solid waste management , approval of the urban employment scheme, administrative approval and financial sanction towards 12 Pathashree project, approval for weaving of 50 percent interest on outstanding property tax, release of installment for beneficiaries of the ‘Housing for All’ project, release of funds of the 2nd and 3rd installment of Road Up-gradation (development of municipal areas), Green City Mission and others, posting of secretary and chief engineer for the SMC, simplification of the building rule up to 10 meters height, sanctioning of special funds for combating Covid-19 and dengue situation and others.

“We discussed those issues with Mr Hakim and he assured that those will be looked into,” Mr Bhattacharya said.

Mr Hakim also met officials of the Siliguri Jalpaguri Development Authority and discussed ongoing projects. Mr Hakim also visited the Bengal Safari: North Bengal Wild Animal Park.

He is scheduled to lead a rally against the BJP-led Centre in the town tomorrow. The rally will begin from Bagha Jatin Park and go to Mahatma Gandhi More. Darjeeling district party TMC president Ranjan Sarkar said they will protest against the rising prices of essential commodities, and press for withdrawal of ‘antifarmer’ laws and ‘anti-worker’ labour codes, while also demanding the release entitled funds to Bengal.