Kolkata: Senior West Bengal minister and Mamata Banerjee’s close aide Firhad Hakim on Saturday defended his controversial statement given to a Pakistani daily on the eve of the fifth phase of elections in Bengal. Pakistani newspaper ‘Dawn’ has published a report quoting Hakim as describing a part of his constituency as ‘mini-Pakistan’.
Calling it a communal conspiracy, the minister alleged that the opposition was targeting him because he was a Muslim. Speaking to India Today Television, Hakim said, “If Narendra Modi goes to Pakistan again and again, no one says a thing. But if a Muslim accompanies a Pakistani journalist, there’s such a hue and cry. They don’t criticise Modi when he drops in to Pakistan without notice? This is all a communal conspiracy.”
In its report titled “Canvassing in ‘mini-Pakistan’ of Kolkata”, published on Friday, Dawn News quoted Hakim as saying, “Please come along and let us take you to mini-Pakistan in Kolkata.” Explaining his conversation with the Pakistani journalist, Hakim claims, it was a gesture of goodwill for someone who had come from a neighbouring country.
“I didn’t say that. But even I did, what’s the harm. Even in Singapore there is a mini-India. She said she felt at home and that the streets were like Karachi. So I said you are welcome to your home,” he explained. When India Today Television contacted the Pakistani journalist who interviewed the Trinamool minister in Kolkata, she said she would stand by her story.
While the Left condemned Hakim’s statement, state BJP has threatened to take the matter to the Election Commission. “It’s not just a case of breaching the model code of conduct. It’s a question of India’s integrity. And as a minister, Firhad Hakim has taken oath to preserve the integrity and sovereignty of India,” said BJP state secretary Jayprakash Majumdar.
Of late, Firhad Hakim, a first time minister and the young face of Mamata’s cabinet has been embroiled in one controversy after another. He was one of the several Trinamool leaders caught accepting money in a sting operation just before the elections. It was his ministry, the urban development department that was also under the scanner after the Vivekananda flyover collapsed in north Kolkata last month.