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Mamata builds working bridge with Modi

Asked if she had faith in Modi’s assurances, Mamata said: “Faith, we must keep. There are constitutional obligations.”

By TT Bureau in Calcutta/New Delhi
  • Published 19.09.19, 3:33 AM
  • Updated 19.09.19, 3:33 AM
  • 2 mins read
Mamata with Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday (PTI)

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate with her a mining project in Bengal after the festival season and sought an appointment with home minister Amit Shah on Thursday.

The cordial gestures after months of confrontation capped a face-to-face interaction between Mamata and Modi that the chief minister described as “absolutely, totally a government-to-government meeting”.

The chief minister requested the Prime Minister to inaugurate the mining project at the Deocha-Pachami coal block with her. The block — with reserves of over 2.1 billion tonnes, the potential generate employment for over 1 lakh people and draw investments of at least Rs 12,000 crore — is touted as the second largest in the world.

“After Durga Puja and Navaratri get over — we are all very busy with Puja and allied festivals — if he can find some time, we can together inaugurate it in a good way. I invited him,” Mamata said, referring to Modi.

The two leaders met for around 40 minutes in the afternoon at the Prime Minister’s residence. Mamata described the meeting as “very good”.

Mamata said she has sought an appointment from Union home minister Shah for a “chair-to-chair” meeting, underscoring that she used to meet Rajnath Singh when he occupied the post.

“If the home minister is here tomorrow, if he can give some time, I would like to meet him as courtesy,” she said.

Although her political rivals chose to drop innuendoes revolving around the CBI’s renewed focus on the Saradha scandal, Mamata took care to portray the meeting as one between two public figures tasked with the responsibility of governance.

The approach matches what she has been trying to adopt in Bengal of late after the shock results in the Lok Sabha polls. After an initial phase of high-voltage attacks on the BJP, Mamata had toned down the pitch of the political battle and focused on highlighting governance issues.

“Two political personalities met, some political issues related to the well-being of the nation and the state featured…. As did issues such as the merger of PSU banks,” she said, adding that she handed over to the Prime Minister a dossier with statistics and data on “how well” Bengal has been doing over the past eight years.

She also placed several demands, such as Rs 13,500 crore due to Bengal.“The change of the state’s name to Bangla. Suggestions for addition-alteration, keeping Bangla intact, no objection…. He agreed to do something,” Mamata said, indicating there could be a suffix. The Centre had felt that mere “Bangla” could create confusion with Bangladesh abroad.

Asked if she had faith in Modi’s assurances, Mamata said: “Faith, we must keep. There are constitutional obligations.”

Mamata said the National Register of Citizens did not figure at the meeting. “Understand first that the NRC is part of the Assam Accord…. There was never any proposal for Bengal and it will never be done,” she said.

When a journalist tried to ask her a question on the Saradha probe, Mamata said: “Please don’t ask me all these nuisance questions… please…. See, I have said what I had to say… thank you so much.”Mamata, who opted out of attending Modi’s swearing-in this summer, said she was willing to attend the event but had to change her mind after something “opritikor (unpleasant)” took place then.

BJP state unit chief Dilip Ghosh said “good sense” has prevailed, but added it was “too little, too late”.

“Now she will not be able to save herself or her party from the CBI,” he said.