Kolkata, March 23 (IANS) It was West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee all the way as her government presented its first full-fledged budget Friday. While the speech of Finance Minister Amit Mitra, a former corporate lobbyist, was liberally laced with references to his boss, the "honourable chief minister", it was she who hogged the limelight in the post-budget media briefing.
While it is a convention at the centre and the states that the finance minister fields questions from the media on the budget day, Mitra was reduced to a sideshow before the journalists in the assembly media briefing room.
Banerjee, in yet another signal that the state government was now a one man (read woman) show, even on a couple of occasions went to the extent of almost snatching the microphone from Mitra to answer media queries.
The journalists, some of them seasoned business correspondents, were at times at their wits end as they tried to go into the technical details of the budget in their bid to get well-informed replies from Mitra, a noted economist holding a Ph.D from a US university.
But every time it was the chief minister who replied, tomtomming the government's success story, and going into politics.
However, when a reporter asked about Mitra failing to meet the revenue target in a couple of areas over the past year, Banerjee was at a loss and passed on the mike to Mitra.
But as Mitra was delving into the international economic scenario and the central budget to make a point, Banerjee suddenly cut him short, pulled the mike to her side and said: "Ami bolchi (let me reply)."
Mitra had no other option than to oblige his leader.
In West Bengal, as in other states, or at the centre, the chief ministers or the prime ministers generally limit themselves to giving their reaction of the budget. It was the same during the long Left Front rule, which saw two chief ministers in Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
But the fun started during the budget presentation itself.
In an encore of new Railway Minister Mukul Roy during the reply to the railway budget, Mitra's speech was replete with references to Banerjee.
While her name came thrice during his two-hour speech, he referred to the "honourable chief minister" ten times. Banerjee's pet slogan "ma-mati-manush" (mother-land-people) was heard eight times.
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