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regular-article-logo Sunday, 21 April 2024

We chatted a lot: Mamata Banerjee on meet with PM Narendra Modi

The state BJP, wary about the meeting creating confusion ahead of the general election, said the chief minister’s attempt to please the Prime Minister would not work

Pranesh Sarkar Calcutta Published 02.03.24, 05:25 AM
Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee at the Raj Bhavan on Friday

Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee at the Raj Bhavan on Friday Sourced by the Telegraph.

Mamata Banerjee met Narendra Modi at the Raj Bhavan here on Friday and attributed the visit to “courtesy” and “protocol”.

The state BJP, wary about the meeting creating confusion ahead of the general election, said the chief minister’s attempt to please the Prime Minister would not work.

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“She is coming to bow down before the Prime Minister. But she won’t get any relief.... This is Modi, he will not loot and nor will he allow anyone else to loot,” the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, said.

Modi is on a two-day trip to Bengal that includes an overnight stay at the Raj Bhavan. He arrived in the city after addressing a government programme and a political rally in Arambagh, Hooghly.

Asked about the Prime Minister’s attack on Trinamul over Sandeshkhali, the chief minister made it clear she would not respond to such questions as she was at the Raj Bhavan in keeping with protocol.

“The party will respond; I will not say anything,” she said.

She added: “As the elections have not been declared yet, I came here to meet the Prime Minister in keeping with protocol…. Whatever we (Trinamul) have to say (against the Centre), we will say from the political stage. As I could not meet him at the RCTC (Royal Calcutta Turf Club, where the Prime Minister’s helicopter from Arambagh landed), I came here to meet him. I raised issues of the state and we chatted a lot.”

Whenever Mamata has met Modi in the past, the Congress and the Left have accused her of striking a deal with the Prime Minister to protect her party colleagues who are under investigation for corruption by central agencies.

Mamata has always denied these allegations of a “setting” (deal) while saying she respects the federal character of the Indian system and that meeting the Prime Minister is protocol.

Friday’s meeting brought the expected charges from the Left and the Congress.

CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty said: “Corruption by the Mamata Banerjee government has increased during Modi’s tenure. It was not a scheduled meeting but a sitting to strike a setting. It was a sitting for seat negotiations: the ED and the CBI are mum and are working to save pishi-bhaipo (Mamata and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee).”

State Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury wondered whether the meeting was “Bengal Didi’s ploy” to “hand over a gift to please Modi”.

“We want to know what transpired at the Raj Bhavan meeting,” he said.

Friday’s meeting came against the backdrop of Mamata’s repeated demands to the Centre to release the funds due to the state. Sources said the chief minister had handed over a piece of paper to the Prime Minister during the meeting.

“The chief minister reminded the Prime Minister about the state’s dues under several rural development schemes,” a senior state official said.

“Bengal is yet to receive dues of about Rs 20,000 crore under various schemes, including the 100 days’ job scheme and the rural housing and rural road programmes.”

Mamata had met Modi in Delhi on December 20 last year and asked that funds for the rural development schemes be released immediately.

As decided at that meeting, central government officials met their Bengal counterparts in January. But no money has come so far.

“So, the chief minister did not want to miss another chance to raise the issue with the Prime Minister,” a source said.

Sources speculated that Mamata may have made Modi aware that the state government had begun clearing the MGNREGA workers’ arrears from its own funds.

She may have also informed the Prime Minister that if the Centre did not release funds under the rural housing scheme, the state would start spending out of its own pocket on this scheme too, the sources suggested.

“If the issue was raised during the meeting, it would definitely put the Centre under pressure ahead of the polls,” a source said.

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