“Our biggest regret is that we wanted to bring him to the State when [he was] alive but could not do so,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Thursday while offering her tributes to legendary singer Manna Dey, who passed away in the early hours in Bangalore.
“I spoke to his family members and requested for bringing his body by special flight to Kolkata, at least for 24 hours, to pay our last respects to the legendary singer and then perform the last rites at Bangalore as desired by the family. Even if the body was brought to the city for two hours, we would have cancelled the programme in the hills,” Ms. Banerjee said at a memorial service organised to pay respects to the singer in Darjeeling.
But the State government’s request to bring Manna Dey’s body to West Bengal took an unsavoury turn later in the day when his daughter Sumita Deb accused the State authorities of not coming forward when the family was going through rough times.
Speaking to journalists in Bangalore, Ms. Deb alleged that a cousin of hers had siphoned off some of her father’s money and when she had written to the Chief Minister and Commissioner of the city police seeking their intervention none came forward.
“I had pleaded with the [State] government and the government never recognised our plea. In that case, how shall I honour her words? Tell me,” she said, referring to Ms. Banerjee’s request that her father’s body be taken to Kolkata.
Asked by journalists in Darjeeling for comments on the charge that the singer was denied the respect he deserved by the State government, Ms. Banerjee retorted: “Is it so? Then why did I meet him in Bangalore?” (Earlier this year, she had gone there to hand over to him the Sangeet Samman — an honour from the State government).
“Manna Dey does not belong to one family. He belongs to the music fraternity and the human family. I spoke to her (the singer’s daughter) thrice. I also spoke to her husband … I am sorry. Anybody can blame me but I cannot blame anybody,” she said.
“When I had met him in Bangalore, he told me that he was 94 and wanted to live for a hundred years. We all wanted that he live for 100 years,” she said, adding that his death was a great loss to the entire world.