Dismayed over ‘misleading’ social media campaign against her by the BJP ministers and leaders for her absence in the review meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 28 at Kalaikunda in West Midnapore, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday clarified that she took permission personally from the PM three times before leaving for Digha to attend relief meeting.
Addressing a press conference, Mamata said, “Today I am addressing this press conference to clear all confusion and misleading campaign launched by the BJP over my absence from PM’s review meeting. Last night, I noticed that BJP leaders aggressively tweeted against me and tried to tarnish my image. Let me clarify what happened yesterday. A day before yesterday (after I fixed my plan to visit Cyclone affected areas), we received a letter about the PM’s visit to Bengal. Just to pay him due respect, I cut short my trip and decided to meet him at Kalaikunda in West Midnapore.”
She further said, “I could not reach early because I was told that my chopper will not be able to fly because of the PM’s security issues. I waited at Sagar Island near the helipad for 20 minutes and after that, I flew to Kalaikunda. Actually, the meeting was supposed to be between me and the PM but I came to know that the Governor and other BJP leaders were present. I had no issue with that. When I reached, the SPG asked us to wait for an hour. Later, I came to know that PM went to the conference room for the review meeting. It’s my duty to meet the PM and to respect his position. I met him (at the conference room) and handed over a report of damage which was caused due to the Cyclone. Then, I informed him about my scheduled meeting at Digha over relief operations and about the rough weather because I was travelling in a chopper. Before leaving, I sought permission from him three times and he accepted my letter.”
“It is unfortunate that the PMO and Home Ministry is stretching the matter too far by recalling my Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay. What is his fault? He is working on my instruction. The PM and the Home Minister are doing this because they could not accept their defeat in the Assembly polls. I would like to tell them…please accept the mandate of the people. Why are the PM and Home Minister after the people of Bengal? Why don’t they like Bengal? With folded hands, I would like to appeal to the Prime Minister and Home Minister, please withdraw the recall letter of Alapan Bandopadhyay. Please stop political vendetta. For the interest of Bengal, I am ready to touch the feet of PM Modi but I will not tolerate such fake and misleading campaigning against me and my Bengal,” Mamata said.
She further said, “On May 10, 2021, I asked for Alapan’s extension from the Centre and on May 24 they granted his extension. Surprisingly, on May 28, he was recalled on central deputation. PM…Please don’t play dirty games. Please allow us to work and I request you to withdraw the recall letter.”
When asked what would be the State government’s stand if the Centre refused to withdraw the recall letter, she said, “We will try to resolve it through dialogue and if they turn down our request, then we have to look for legal options. I heard that they are already gearing up to fight this battle in the court. They have already filed a caveat”
Yesterday, nearly an hour ago before her ‘scheduled one to one meeting with PM Modi’ at Kalaikunda in West Midnapore, Mamata in the middle of an administrative meeting announced Alapan Bandyopadhyay as the head of the Digha Shankarpur Development Authority (DSDA) to undertake beautification work of Digha which was badly affected by the Cyclone Yaas.
Digha is one of the best beach destinations in West Bengal. “Alapan will look after DSDA now,” she said.
“Nutun kore planning korte hobe….Alapana ke chhara hobe na (We have to do proper planning with new ideas…it will not be possible without Alapan),” Mamata said during the administration meeting on May 29 in East Midnapore.
Mamata also made it official that she will not be a part of the review meeting with PM Modi.
After the administrative meeting, she flew to Kalaikunda in a chopper to meet PM Modi. Nearly after 45 minutes, she reached Kalaikunda and waited in an adjoining room close to the room where PM Modi, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, BJP MP Deboshree Chowdhury, Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari were present for the Cyclone ‘Yaas’ review meeting.
When asked Suvendu Adhikari to explain what had exactly happened yesterday during the review meeting, he said, “We all were inside the room when she along with Alapan Bandopadhyay entered. We all stood up and greeted her. She had a face to face interaction with PM Modi for two-three minutes, which I didn’t hear. Then she handed over some documents to him and she left the venue.”
When asked why he was invited from East Midnapore as there are other MLAs too in the same district and why Akhil Giri (MLA from Digha which is the worst affected by Cyclone ‘Yaas’) was not invited, he said, “I was not present that as an MLA. I was present in the meeting as the Leader of the Opposition. Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury was also invited but he could not make it out as he was away in New Delhi. We have to work collectively in such a crisis. In Odisha, the LoP was invited but he could not make it due to Covid-19. I think she (Mamata) is finding it difficult to accept her defeat in Nandigram.”
Constitutional and political experts Biswanath Chakraborty said, “As per present situation there are three options before Alapan Bandopadhyay which includes either he should accept the central deputation, or he could opt out of his three months extension which was given to him till August 31 and retire on May 31 to head the DSDA. Last but not least he can always challenge the order in the Court.”
Sources said Alapan is likely to retire on May 31 and will focus on Digha Shankarpur Development Authority (DSDA) and its development.