Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as well as the National Population Register (NPR).
The request came at a meeting, held for around 19 minutes, between the two leaders at Raj Bhawan in Kolkata, where Modi is on a two-day visit.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Banerjee said Modi is her guest and it is her constitutional right and courtesy to greet the Prime Minister and the President of India. Banerjee said she told Modi to rethink the issues of the amended Citizenship Act and urged him to withdraw the CAA, NRC and NPR.
“I requested him to release Rs 38,000 in central funds for Bengal and also asked him to roll back the decision to implement the NRC and the CAA,” she said.
“After listening to me, PM Modi said since he will be busy at a few events in Kolkata, he asked me to discuss these issues elaborately in Delhi in the coming days,” she said before heading to Rani Rashmoni Road to attend a public meet against the NRC and CAA.
Moments after the meeting, Banerjee was present at an anti-CAA demonstration nearby where Left-leaning students protested against her for having met Modi.
An hour or so later, Modi and Banerjee were seated on stage at the Millennium Park during a light and sound show on the banks of the Hooghly river.
Last September, Banerjee had met Modi after a gap of nearly 16 months at his 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, residence in New Delhi. She had termed it as a “non-political meeting” and “very good”. She had then also met Home Minister Amit Shah and discussed many issues, including the NRC.
BJP's B-Team, Claim Opposition
At Saturday’s meeting, Banerjee was unwilling to showcase to the Opposition (especially when she decided to skip its meeting chaired by Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi) that it was more than a “courtesy visit”.
Many felt that the Banerjee -- amid allegations from the Congress and Left leaders accusing her of being the BJP’s “B-Team” after her agreeing to meet Modi -- delivered her best masterstroke by “intentionally” keeping her meeting short as she is not in a mood to dampen her movement against the NRC and the CAA.
The meeting between Modi and Banerjee drew sharp reactions from the Congress and CPI(M), which said the ruling TMC's "double standard" is now exposed. However, the TMC leadership denied claims of a "political match-fixing" and said the meeting was just a government-to-government meet.
A senior TMC leader said that the BJP as well as Banerjee are aware that CAA and NRC will be crucial factors in the upcoming elections in Bengal.
“Didi will never allow anyone to raise a finger at her and accuse her of coming to an understanding with the BJP by meeting PM Modi,” said the leader. “The meeting was deliberately kept short and it is very unlikely that tomorrow she will be present at the Kolkata Port Trust event at Netaji Indoor Stadium.”
Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury and CPI (M) legislature leader Md Salim accused Banerjee of having a “secret understanding” with the BJP.
“It is unfortunate that she (Mamata) has time to meet Modi but doesn’t have time to meet Sonia Gandhi in Delhi for the Opposition meet,” Chowdhury said.
“People want to know what game she is playing,” asked Salim.
This is Modi’s first visit to Bengal after the BJP’s impressive show in the last Lok Sabha election where it won 18 of the 42 seats in the state. On Modi’s last visit in April last year, he addressed public rallies in South Dinajpore and Nadia districts.