Kolkata Metro - the country's first Metro - used to be an island of cleanliness and orderliness in a city known for its dirty walls and disfigured public buildings. But the ruling Trinamool Congress is seeing to it that this civic exceptionalism becomes the political rule.
Commuters at the Shahid Khudiram (Birji) station in Kolkata's southern outskirts were shocked to find posters of a union affiliated to the TMC pasted on the Metro walls this week. And the man smiling in the picture was none other than a Trinamool minister - Madan Mitra, who holds the transport portfolio in the government of chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Such posters, some which had pictures of Banerjee along with Mitra, were seen in other stations also.
Mitra is the president of the Trinamool Congress backed Metro Railway Pragatishil Shramik Karmachari Union, which was a main contender in the first official Metro Staff Union polls April 25-26.
A Kolkata Metro Railway official said whatever happened was "unfortunate".
"The stations are no-poster zones. What makes it more embarrassing is that the posters were pasted on the walls by our own staff. These must have been there through the week. We have asked them to remove them," the official said, not wishing to be identified for fear of political retaliation.
The commuters are also not amused. "We earlier used to take pride in the cleanliness of the metro railway. But now the staff themselves are making it dirty. And the union backed by the ruling party is taking the lead. This is just not acceptable," Debamalya Ghosh, a businessman who commutes daily between Shahid Khudiram and Esplande station, said.
While Mitra was not available, a Metro Railway Pragatishil Shramik Karmachari Union leader said: "All the parties do the same. Why are we being singled oute "Now that the polls are over, we will remove them".
The Kolkata Metro now traverses over 25 km from Dum Dum in the north to New Garia in the south carrying an average of 650,000 passengers on a weekday.