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'CMs Sat Like Puppets': Bengal-Centre Rift in Open Again with Mamata's Protest on Modi's Covid Meet

Bengal Chief minister Mamata Banerjee. (PTI)

Bengal Chief minister Mamata Banerjee. (PTI)

The DMs of West Bengal did not attend the virtual meeting where the prime minister discussed strategy to deal with 'dhoort' and 'bahurupia' virus.

The chief ministers sat like puppets and were not allowed to speak during PM Modi’s interaction with district magistrates of 10 states, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said on Thursday. She added that since she was present at the meeting, the DMs of her state did not attend the virtual conference where the prime minister discussed strategy to deal with “dhoort" and “bahurupia" virus.

“They didn’t ask us about medicine, vaccine, Remdesivir or oxygen situation. What I felt bad about was that although the CMs were officially invited, none were allowed to speak. We, the CMs, are feeling insulted and humiliated," Banerjee said minutes after the video conferencing, which she termed as “flop meeting".

She further alleged that only some of the “favoured DMs" were allowed to speak. “PM says that the coronavirus situation has improved. Then how come so many people are dying daily?" Banerjee asked.

“They are still playing politics and their step-motherly attitude towards Bengal is unfortunate. I would like to question them, how many central teams were sent to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar after it was found that thousands of Covid-19 positive bodies are floating on the Ganges?," the chief minister added.

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In response to her allegations, the Centre said that only the DMs were supposed to interact with the PM Modi at the meeting. PM spoke to a number of officials during his second such interaction, where the CMs of Maharashtra, Kerala, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh were also present. The latest war of words has once again brought in focus the rift between the Centre and West Bengal government.

Banerjee’s former aide and now BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari tweeted, “To state clearly, PM @narendramodi has held numerous meetings with Chief Ministers in the last few months, how many did @MamataOfficial attend? ZERO. Now, she hijacks a PM-DM meet to say she was denied a chance to speak. Shameful!"

“No Chief Minister had spoken in the earlier meeting with DMs on Tuesday as well. The CMs are not supposed to speak but are invited for the meeting since the PM is interacting with the DMs. The format of the interaction is shared in advance with the states. No other CM has raised the issue except the West Bengal CM who it seems wanted to create a drama after skipping many earlier review meetings with PM," a senior government functionary told News18.

He said that Banerjee had also not allowed the DM of West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas to speak at the meeting, as scheduled, while the DMs of many opposition ruled-states like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh had interacted with the PM at the meeting.

Banerjee on Thursday also wrote to PM Modi seeking 20 lakh more doses of COVID-19 vaccine for people working in frontline positions. “In Bengal, while we have taken steps to complete vaccination of a large section of frontline and electorally engaged employees across several sectors, we still need minimally 20 lakh doses to cover all the employees," she said.

Further highlighting the issues of the frontline workers, her letter read, “They have been forced to face people, to mingle with public for discharge of their duties. In the process, they are running the risk of being affected by Covid-19. It is important that they are vaccinated without delay and irrespective of age groups." Alleging that the Central government’s policies are unfavourable she requested the prime minister to arrange vaccine for these “priority sector Central Government employees working all over the country along with State Government employees without any further delay."

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