West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee might give a miss to her scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in West Midnapore district on Friday afternoon. During the meeting, Modi and Banerjee are going to discuss the damage, relief and reconstruction following the devastations caused by cyclone Yaas.
It is the first meeting scheduled between Modi and Banerjee since the assembly election results, during which the two were engaged in leading a rather bitter contest.
According to a senior official at the state secretariat, West Bengal has informed the Centre of its reservations against the scheduled presence of BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, Mamata Banerjee’s one-time confidante who has become the leader of Opposition in the new assembly.
According to the state government, Prime Minister’s Office had informed it that apart from Modi, two union ministers from the state, Debashree Chaudhury and Babul Supriyo, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Suvendu Adhikari were to be present at the meeting, while Banerjee would be accompanied by the chief secretary, Alapan Bandyopadhyay.
“We have no problem with the presence of union ministers but why Adhikari? It reflects the Centre is trying to turn the meeting into a political one,” said a senior bureaucrat.
Modi and Mamata were scheduled to attend a meeting at Kalaikunda in West Midnapore district at 2.30 pm for half an hour to discuss the relief and reconstruction work after the destruction caused by cyclone Yaas.
The chief minister has said the damages are worth Rs 15,000 crore.
Suvendu Adhikary was a heavyweight Trinamool Congress leader and minister until he joined the BJP at the end of 2020. After Mamata Banerjee decided to leave her own turf and contest against Adhikari at the latter’s home turf in the Assembly elections held during March and April this year, Adhikari launched an all-out attack on Banerjee, repeatedly calling her as Begum. Adhikary won by a slender margin of 1,956 votes amid controversies over recounting.
The BJP later elected him as the leader of the opposition, a post that is equivalent to a minister.
The prime minister is supposed to take an aerial view of the Digha area in East Midnapore district on his way back from Odisha to New Delhi and hold a meeting at West Midnapore district where Kalaikunda where the Indian Air Force has a station.