West Bengal Minister for Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Firhad Hakim, popularly known as Bobby Hakim, found himself in the eye of a storm after an interview in Pakistani daily Dawn quoted him as calling Kolkata’s Garden Reach area “mini-Pakistan”. The article was titled ‘Canvassing in mini-Pakistan of Kolkata’.
In an interview to Dawn’s Maleeha Hamid Siddiqui, Hakim was quoted as saying, “Please come along and let us take you to mini-Pakistan in Kolkata.” He was referring to Garden Reach area which falls in his constituency, where Siddiqui was following him on the campaign trail.
On Saturday, addressing the media at a polling booth in Chetla — the colony where Hakim lives with his family — he said, “This is a ploy to create communal tension. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone to Pakistan three-four times. That is okay. But if I, as a Muslim, say anything, then it is not okay. Why so? I am as much a son of the soil as Narendra Modi. This is nothing but discrimination.”
He also denied calling Garden Reach mini-Pakistan. “I never said that. I deny it. It’s just that a journalist from Pakistan had come along with me and she happened to find that the area reminded her of Pakistan, that’s all. If someone were to say that Kolkata is like London, then would there be this reaction? What is this reaction for, I ask you,” he said.
The Dawn article went viral hours before the fifth phase of the West Bengal polls, in which Kolkata Port — the constituency where Hakim is MLA from — also voted.
Hakim was one of the 11 TMC leaders shown purportedly accepting cash in a sting operation carried out by Narada News.