Kolkata: It’s Durga Puja season in Bengal where politics is increasingly a by-product. Ignoring the fact that the TMC government of the state had already turned ‘communal’ by provisioning stipends for imams and muezzins, a lawyer with a CPI(M) link approached the Calcutta High Court for his client, seeking a stay on the sop the Mamata Banerjee government had recently announced for clubs organising Durga Puja. On Friday, the bid to stop the dole for the puja succeeded as the high court issued an interim stay order.

The division bench headed by acting Chief Justice Debasish Kar Gupta asked the state government whether there was any prevailing guideline, since a huge amount was being disbursed.

It all started with Sourabh Dutta filing a PIL challenging the programme. On September 10, the chief minister had, in her pursuit to make an image makeover from a pro-Muslim government, declared that Rs 10,000 would be given to each of the 28,000 puja committees across the state. The state government shortlisted 3,000 such committees in the city and 25,000 across different districts, costing the government an amount of Rs 28 crore.

Advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya appeared for the petitioner, stating that such distribution of money, that too of Rs 28 crore among puja committees, is ‘unconstitutional’. He argued that disbursal of government money on religious grounds was unacceptable. While state advocate general Kishore Dutta opposed the plea, he sought time from the court for consulting the state government so that he could produce documents with regard to the decision which he claimed was for the purpose of “traffic safety”.

While the matter will be heard again on Tuesday, interestingly the plea comes closely on the heels of an influential imam of Kolkata Pirzada Taha Siddiqui taking on the Banerjee government in an illegally organised protest rally that witnessed hundreds of Muslim youths opposing the move.

Siddiqui, in fact also threatened to overthrow the TMC government and bring back the Left Front or the Congress to power using his influence over the Muslim community. What's even more interesting is that Bhattacharya, who asked for the stay, is a senior CPI(M) leader and has been Kolkata Mayor under the left rule.