Purulia, Sept. 23: Mamata Banerjee today declined to stay in a government guest house atop the Ayodhya hills, officials touring with her in Purulia said.
What made the chief minister change her mind on the night’s stay is not clear. Could it be because of a security alert, given the Ayodhya hills are close to Jharkhand where Maoists are active? Or did a phone-savvy Mamata realise that the cellular network was poor?
Had she stayed in one of the three guest houses kept ready for her, Mamata would have been the first chief minister in 22 years after Jyoti Basu to have spent a night on the Ayodhya hills.
Sources said Mamata spent just five minutes at the hill top, then got into her car. The convoy came down to Bagmundi, where the chief minister stayed in a Purulia Pump Storage guest house.
“The moment she reached the PHE guest house on top of the hill around 7pm, she made it clear she did not like it and decided to leave. She did not check out the two other guest houses,” a source said.
“She did not like the arrangements there and so she came down from the hills,” said a police officer, who was in the entourage.
Some police personnel who oversee the chief minister’s security said she may have responded to their suggestion of not staying on the Ayodhya hills because of security concerns.
“We had advised the chief minister to avoid staying overnight atop the Ayodhya hills, which is only 5km through jungle routes from Jharkhand, where the Maoists are active. She may have realised that after reaching the guest house that we had a point,” an Intelligence Branch officer said.
Purulia district, where the Ayodhya hills are located, was a Maoist hotbed till three years ago.
According to an official, Mamata may have been unhappy with the area’s feeble telecom network — Mamata is known to keep in touch with colleagues by texting.
The Intelligence Branch officer said the Union home ministry had sent an alert two days ago that Maoists may carry out subversive activities on September 24, the anniversary of the merger of factions PWG and the MCC.
While the convoy was on its way down today, district authorities arranged for accommodation at the circuit house in Purulia and the guest house at Purulia Pump Storage Project in Bagmundi. Mamata chose the latter.