West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is under attack from BJP leaders, from party president downwards, for skipping the meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called for taking stock of the damage caused by the Cyclone Yaas in the State. Party president J P Nadda called it “murder of constitutional ethos and the culture of cooperative federalism” while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh described “this type of behaviour with the Prime Minister” as “painful”. What the BJP leaders will find more painful is to admit that Banerjee has averted an extremely ugly situation by keeping away from the meeting.
The Prime Minister visited on May 28 Odisha and West Bengal, the two States which suffered heavily from the Cyclone Yaas. After visiting Odisha where he held discussions with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on the damage the State has suffered, Modi reached Kalaikuda Air Base in West Midnapore district of West Bengal. He was scheduled to hold a meeting with Chief Minister Banerjee about the State’s losses. Reports say that the Chief Minister kept him waiting for half an hour; then came, submitted a memorandum about the assessment of the damage and financial help required from the Centre and left, “with the permission of the Prime Minister”, as she had another scheduled meeting. She was accompanied by Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay. Within hours Modi displayed his anguish as the Centre recalled Bandyopadhyay to Delhi and asked him to join Department of Personnel and Training.
Prima facie, Mamata Banerjee was wrong as it does not behave the Chief Minister of a State to treat the Prime Minister so shabbily. But here the Prime Minister had himself invited this type of behaviour by his insatiable itch to humiliate Banerjee for the mortifying defeat inflicted by her on the BJP in the recently held Assembly elections in the State. Modi had taken with him for the meeting West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Suvendu Adhikari who, after spending almost his entire life in Trinamool Congress, had defected to BJP just before the Assembly elections and become Modi’s confederate against Banerjee. There is no history that Modi had been taking Governor and Leader of Opposition during his meetings with Chief Ministers of other States to discuss and assess the damages caused by cyclones. Then why in West Bengal?
The presence of the two at the meeting was to provoke Mamata Banerjee who is already worked up with Modi’s frequent resort to devious methods to harass her. Adhikari is a new “Mullah” who would like to fortify his loyalty to Modi by taking on Banerjee. As for Dhankar, he has never displayed the dignity of Governor’ office but behaved like an uncultured bully almost on every occasion. If Banerjee had attended the meeting, there was bound to be an extremely ugly situation. Thus by courting some criticism for showing “disrespect” to Prime Minister, Mamata Banerjee has averted a catastrophe and also foiled Modi’s nefarious design.