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Tea and courtesy after boycott

Surjya Kanta Mishra (left) and Manas Bhuniya

Calcutta, Feb. 17: Mamata Banerjee today invited Opposition leaders to tea in her Assembly chamber hours after the Left and Congress boycotted her speech.

The tea was preceded by another meeting, attended by leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra and Speaker Biman Banerjee, which selected a member of the state human rights commission.

After the first meeting, parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee went to Mishra and Congress leaders Mohammad Sohrab and Manas Bhuniya and invited them to tea in the chief minister’s chamber. Chatterjee said it was a “courtesy” call.

According to sources, Mishra requested Mamata to attend the House on Fridays, when she is scheduled to reply to questions.

The chief minister told him that she has “given replies in the past and other ministers too had replied on her behalf”. “She did not say if she would be in the Assembly next Friday,” said a source.

The tea session, where several Trinamul MPs were present, took place after a morning of boycott by the Opposition, followed by the din CPM members made while Amit Mitra read the budget.

The Congress stayed away from the House this morning protesting Mamata’s decision to choose the budget day for her reply to the governor’s address. The Left boycotted it as she had not attended the House to take questions on Friday.

When Mitra was presenting the budget, CPM members led by Mishra shouted in the House, saying the minister’s announcement on compensation to Saradha victims did not match the text. Mamata intervened and said Mitra was reading out some parts of the budget text, “otherwise it will become too long”. She cited the example of her railway budget speeches.

Mishra said he understood her point but if the finance minister “added new points, it would again become long”.

At the earlier meeting, Mamata, Mishra and Speaker Biman Banerjee approved the name of Mani Shankar Dwivedy, a West Bengal Judicial Services officer, as the judicial member of the rights panel. His name was recommended by the state.

Dwivedy, a 1985-batch judicial services officer, retires as judicial secretary in Calcutta High Court in April.

The panel has been reduced to one member — retired IPS officer Naparajit Mukherjee — after the exit of Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly as chairperson and the retirement of Justice N.C. Sil last November.

The commission would now be able to function. Hearings and ordering of probes had not been possible for lack of quorum.