By Saibal Gupta
Kolkata, May 29 (IANS) It was a meeting that hardly lasted for a minute but the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee created a huge political controversy.
When senior leaders of the BJP claimed that it was the chief minister’s ego that resisted her from staying away from the review meeting with Suvendu Adhikari, Trinamool Congress alleged that the meeting with the Prime Minister personally was pre-scheduled but she was not allowed time as promised by the PMO.
The controversy started in the morning when an official from the PMO called Suvendu Adhikari and was asked to stay in the review meeting at Kalaikunda. Adhikari, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the state legislative assembly, reached Kalaikunda at 1 p.m. much before the arrival of the Prime Minister.
Interestingly Mamata Banerjee announced from her review meeting in Hingalganj that she won’t be able to stay at the review meeting but she would hand over the estimate of the damage caused by the storm.
According to highly placed sources in the state secretariat, chief minister’s announcement comes after chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay confirmed that Prime Minister has given her separate time but when she reached Kalaikunda she was made to sit in a separate room and was informed that as the review meeting has started already, she will have to wait.
Sources close to the chief minister said that she insisted for one minute time but she was requested to wait. Mamata Banerjee then walked into the review meeting, handed over the paper and walked out.
This one-minute incident was enough to attract strong political repercussions. Just after the meeting Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar who was also present wrote, “At the Review Meet by PM #CycloneYaas to assess damage caused. CM and officials @MamataOfficial did not participate. Such boycotts both in consonance with the constitution and federalism. Certainly, by such actions neither public interest nor interest of state has been served.
Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee was quick to respond. In his tweet, Banerjee wrote, “@jdhankhar1, can you tell us, under what provision Nandigram MLA can be present in the review meeting between the central government headed by @narendramodi and state government headed by @MamataOfficial. Stop doing politics @jdhankhar1 in this situation”.
Suvendu Adhikari who was in the centre of the controversy wrote, “When Hon PM Shri @narendramodi stands strong with the citizens of West Bengal in wake of cyclone Yaas, Mamata ji should also set aside her ego for the welfare of people. Her absence from the PM’s meeting is murder of constitutional ethos & the culture of cooperative federalism”.
“Today is a dark day in India’s long-standing ethos of cooperative federalism, a principle held sacred by PM @narendramodi. If her track record is anything to go by, @MamataOfficial Didi’s administration was unable to manage Amphan relief. Rampant loot plagued the relief works. Even now, West Bengal is suffering and the state government is in absent mode,” he added.
Union Home Minister on his Twitter handle wrote, “Mamata Didi’s conduct today is an unfortunate low. Cyclone Yaas has affected several common citizens and the need of the hour is to assist those affected. Sadly, Didi has put arrogance above public welfare and today’s petty behaviour reflects that”.
Trinamool Congress refuted the allegation. The party’s spokesperson, Kunal Ghosh said, “There is no place for any kind of controversy. It was a meeting between the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister. The chief minister met the Prime Minister and submitted to him the details of the damage caused by the storm. There the matter ends”.
State BJP President Dilip Ghosh said, “This cannot be a good example of cooperative federalism. She gave preference to her personal ego more than the pains of the people of the state. Suvendu Adhikari is the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister has invited him to be present. Her absence in the meeting will send a very wrong signal”.
TMC General Secretary Partha Chatterjee said, “Those who are speaking of her insensitivity should know that she was in the state secretariat whole might to oversee the pains of the people. She is the one who is personally overseeing the relief operations in the state. I would like to ask where were those people during the storm?”
By Saibal Gupta