Monday, 30th October 2017

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Mamata steers clear of politics

Modi sensed the groundswell of outrage at the 23-hour delay in his reaction to the calamity

By Meghdeep Bhattacharyya in Calcutta
  • Published 23.05.20, 3:07 AM
  • Updated 23.05.20, 4:52 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Modi, governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Mamata at Basirhat College ground on Friday. Picture by Pashupati Das

Mamata Banerjee on Friday ensured political propriety from her party as she and Narendra Modi conducted a G2G — government to government — interaction in the wake of the cataclysmic cyclone, but the Bengal unit of the Prime Minister’s party didn’t reciprocate the gesture.

Although there was disquiet in the ruling administration in Bengal about the Rs 1,000 crore grant that the Prime Minister announced after an aerial survey of the Amphan-affected areas, no one publicly said anything against the Centre.

The fact that the message must have been from Mamata was clear as the chief minister later said that she had “requested” the Prime Minister to release some money. “Instead of a belligerently rolling out the demand, she has switched to a request mode,” said a source close to her.

A mellower approach from Mamata, a source close to her said, was a compulsion as she needs funds from the Centre for rebuilding some of the most populous parts of the state, with barely a year left for the Assembly elections.

The Prime Minister, on his visit to Bengal, too, steered clear of politics and lauded Mamata and her government for efforts to cope with the natural calamity amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Adept at reading the writing on the wall, Modi, a source in the BJP said, must have sensed the groundswell of outrage, largely apolitical, at the 23-hour delay in his reaction to the calamity.

Even the likes of junior Union minister Babul Supriyo — otherwise one of Mamata’s most unsparing critics, who accompanied the duo, appeared to be on the same page with Modi and praised the chief minister’s vast political experience and described her as an “efficient administrator”.

But Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh chose a different course.

“Monetary help has been announced by the honourable Prime Minister. Compensation… and an immediate haatkhoroch (pocket money) for Didi (Mamata) of Rs 1,000 crore,” said Ghosh.

“The money should go directly to the accounts of the beneficiaries. Otherwise, from the experience, it is understood that the common people don’t get their compensation…. It will get looted before it reaches them,” he added, before going on to directly accuse the state government of being responsible for the damage and even the loss of lives in the cyclone.

Asked to respond specifically to Ghosh’s remarks, senior Trinamul leader Firhad Hakim said: “It was an interaction between the heads of two governments. When the adults speak about something important, children should have the basic decency to be silent.”

CPM general-secretary Sitaram Yechury questioned Modi’s pledge of Rs 1,000 crore in the wake of the extensive rebuilding necessary in Bengal and demanded the declaration of a national disaster.

The leader of Congress legislative party in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, echoed Yechury.

“Mr Prime Minister, such a lot of funds is necessary for the rebuilding, the rehabilitation. What will this paltry sum do?” asked the Behrampore MP, otherwise known for being one of Mamata’s sternest critics.