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CM gives time to Union minister

Calcutta, June 18: Mamata Banerjee has granted an appointment to Union power and coal minister Piyush Goyal at Nabanna tomorrow, acknowledging the imperative of maintaining a working relationship with the Narendra Modi government at the Centre after initial reservations.

Senior officials said Goyal would be in Calcutta tomorrow to visit the Coal India headquarters.

“Goyal had sought an appointment with the chief minister, which was approved. The one-to-one meeting is scheduled to be held at 3.30pm tomorrow,” said an official in the chief minister’s office.

Senior officials welcomed the decision, pointing out that in a “federal structure” the ruling establishments — in the state as well as at the Centre — should maintain a working relationship.

“This leaves room for discussions, which can help remove the bottlenecks the state is facing in Delhi. Initially, the chief minister was hesitant to maintain a direct relationship with the BJP-led government, perhaps keeping her minority vote-bank in mind, but it appears that she is now gradually getting out of her mindset,” said an official.

The chief minister had earlier sent Trinamul leader and MP Mukul Roy and Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra to attend the swearing-in of Modi, steering clear of direct contact with the BJP ministers. Mamata had also asked secretaries of several departments to visit Delhi at regular intervals and liaise with secretaries of Union ministries to ensure steady flow of central funds to the state.

“The chief minister had hinted at that time that the officials would have to play a greater role,” said another official.

A hint of a shift surfaced when the chief minister sent finance minister Mitra to hold a pre-budget meeting with Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in Delhi.

“Senior government officials convinced the chief minister that if the state does not liaise with the Centre at the political level, it is tough to secure funds,” an official said.

The government is also gearing up to attend a meeting in Delhi soon to strengthen the Centre-state relationship.

The Centre has asked all states to flag areas of concern at the meeting to be held soon to ensure closer co-operation and co-ordination.

Bengal chief secretary Sanjay Mitra is scheduled to hold a meeting on June 28 to take note of the issues that are needed to be put up before the Centre. “For instance, we can seek a three-year moratorium on interest payment on loans and repayment,” said an official.

Whether the demand will be entertained is still uncertain but officials feel the effort to get engaged with the Centre is a first step in the right direction.