Top officials in the government informed News18 that the Centre has provided a point-by-point rebuttal to Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s statements on what had happened when PM Modi was in the state for overseeing Cyclone Yaas’s relief work.
On Mamata Banerjee claiming of being late about the PM’s program and meeting and having cut short her schedule for the PM’s program, the source said, “The PM’s visit was to asses damage due to Cyclone Yaas, so it cannot be finalised before the Cyclone comes. In fact, the same timelines were followed when PM visited WB last year after Cyclone Amphan. This time, both Odisha and West Bengal were informed at a similar time. However, Odisha managed the program very well, which was before the WB visit."
Mamata Banerjee also went on record to say that she waited for the PM. On this the Centre said, “PM landed at Kalaikunda at 1:59 pm .Mamata Banerjee landed at Kalaikunda after the PM at 2:10 pm. It is clear that PM was kept waiting for Mamata Banerjee as he landed much before her. This was also confirmed by TMC MP who tweeted that there was no big deal in PM being kept waiting. Upon descending from the chopper, she reached the meeting building, which was around 500 metres away. After meeting the PM, she departed for her next journey at 2:35 pm. So in effect, she travelled 500 metres to and fro, met PM and departed in 25 mins. She left before the PM left, which is clearly contrary to accepted practices and protocol. It is clear that Mamata Banerjee’s statement of being made to wait is entirely false and that she made the PM wait."
The Bengal chief minister had also said that her programs were already fixed. “This is not necessary that every time the Chief Minister has to receive, sometimes there are other programs also," she had said.
The Centre retorted saying, “Mamata Banerjee had agreed to attend the meeting. However, she changed her mind after coming to know that the LoP was going to be part of the meeting, which she also mentions in her letter. Hence it is clear that her pre-decided schedule was not an issue at all. This was also confirmed by the Governor of West Bengal who has tweeted that Mamata told him that she would boycott the meeting if LoP of WB attends the meeting.."
Mamata had said she was told to wait for 20 mins in Sagar because the PM chopper was to land, and then they hovered in air for 15 mins more.
“She was expected to come in advance, as everyone does when PM is supposed to land at any airport. PM’s security is taken care off by SPG which is a professional body," said the top official on grounds of anonymity.
Mamata Banerjee said she was shocked and stunned by unilateral order on Chief Secretary order without prior consultation with the State and that the order was legally untenable, unprecedented, unconstitutional.
“The order is perfectly constitutional since Chief Secretary is an All India Services officer. He chose to ignore his constitutional duties, as a result of which no presentation was given to PM and no officer of WB government attended the PM’s review meeting," was the Centre’s reply.
Chief Secretary’s retirement shows that Mamata Banerjee is on the back foot, added the source.
“She knows that facts of the matter are against the Chief Secretary and his behaviour was such that it will invite strict disciplinary action as he is an All India Services Officer & it was his duty to ensure that the review meeting takes place as scheduled. All India Officers are not expected to be part of politics. Mamata knows all this & his retirement is a last bid to save him. Mamata Banerjee has done a big U turn in a matter of hours. From requesting PM to confirm the extension of Chief Secretary for 3 months, to retiring him now.," the Centre said.
The three-time Bengal chief minister further added that only few days back, the government had agreed to extend service of Chief Secretary by three months to serve the State at this critical time; order of 24th May granting extension issued after mutual written consultations in accordance with due process.
“The fact that the government had agreed to extend the service of Chief Secretary shows that it is acting in full co-operation and without malice against West Bengal," said the Centre.
Mamata Banerjee also alleged saying, “You revised structure of meeting to include a local MLA from your party; he had no locus to be present in a PM-CM meeting; I didn’t object to you inviting Governor and Union Ministers to the meeting."
The Centre in its reply said, “The said MLA is the Leader of Opposition of West Bengal Assembly and also an elected representative of the affected area. There have been numerous meetings in the past in non-BJP ruled states where representatives of other parties have been present."
Mamata in her statement also said, “Chief Secretary sent messages to a senior officer accompanying you to sort this issue or arrange a PM-CM meeting before that meeting; we got no positive response; My Director (Security) was also in touch with SPG in this regard."
“Mamata Banerjee chose to boycott the review meeting because the LOP of WB was present. No issue was created by GoI on this, because what mattered was Cyclone relief activities. It was suggested to her that PM will meet her immediately after the review meeting as that was the reason for which he traveled to WB. Sensing that she may have to wait till the review meeting gets over, she chose to prevent other officers too from attending the meeting and in effect cancelled the review meeting scheduled by the Prime Minister," replied the Centre.
The TMC supremo in her statement said that she entered the meeting with Chief Secretary to give the report; PM Modi personally took it from her hand; she then expressly sought permission to leave for Digha where a meeting was due. The PM, Mamata claimed, expressly permitted leave.
“PM did not give permission to Mamata Banerjee to leave the meeting," said the Centre.