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Fifty nine-year old Farhad Hakeem has been named as the Mayor of Kolkata Municipal Corporation. This is the first time that a Muslim has become the Mayor of KMC after Independence. He resigned as the Minister of Urban Development and Municipal Affairs in the State cabinet headed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee a little while before assuming the charge. His ascension was however, made possible by passing an amendment in the KMC Act in the West Bengal Assembly whereby a non-corporator too could be appointed as the Mayor. He, however, will have to be elected as a corporator later.
Who is Farhad Hakeem? is the question being asked in political corridors and what the Didi is targeting to achieve by appointing a Muslim as the chief of the municipal body looking after the administration spread over 200 sq. km. urban area.
Farhad Hakeem is also known as Bobby. He has a mixed Urdu Muslim-Bengali parentage as his father Abdul Hakeem hailed from Gaya in Bihar and had married a Bengali Hindu woman while doing business in Kolkata. Farhad has grown imbibing cultural influences of both Hindus and Muslims. He has been into business of chemicals prior to joining politics. Since he had roots in Bihar, he can easily shift to Hindi-Urdu from Bangla language while addressing crowds.
Eversince he joined the Trinamool Congress, he has been a staunch loyalist of Mamata Banerjee. Mamata is said to have blind faith in three of his loyalists i.e. Shovan Chaterjee, Roop Viswas and Farhad Hakeem. Hakeem has also entered into ‘good books’ of Mamata’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee who is currently the closest political associate of the Chief Minister.
Media circles also testify that Farhad has maintained an extremely secular stance all through his career and has never played any communally partisan tune. He is equally popular among the Hindus in the constituency from where he got elected as the MLA. He enthusiastically participates in the celebration of Durga Puja, the major festival observed on a popular level in West Bengal.
Farhad is known for hard work. KMC employees remember him as one who would be available till late in the evening in his ward office while others would leave by 6 pm. He remained unblemished as far as corruption was concerned. He was instrumental in seeing completion of beautification project for Rajarhaat, an area in the vicinity of Kolkata. He is said to be a hard taskmaster and does not leave projects incomplete. It was Mamata Banerjee who had tasked him to take up the beautification project. It is said only those who are consistent with unflinching loyalty of Mamata Banerjee can expect to be elevated to such high positions.
It is guessed that Mamata has opted for Farhad with an eye over 20% Muslim votes and Hindi-speaking population among 54 lakh KMC area voters. In 2017, when Shankar Development Board was constituted to improve civic conditions around the famous Shankar Mandir in Kolkata, Mamata had appointed Farhad Hakeem as its Chairman. This led to accusation from the BJP that a Muslim was being appointed in pursuance of the policy of minority appeasement. It is guessed that the BJP would again try to polarise Hindu voters in the KMC area to gain political advantage.
(Source: Translated and transcribed from thewire.in/Urdu)