West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Saturday hit back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi government a day after a bitter face-off over a meeting to review the damage from Cyclone Yaas, accusing his office of feeding “fake news” to the media.
“Don’t insult me like this. We have got a landslide victory, is that why you are behaving like this? You tried everything and lost. Why are quarrelling with us every day?” Banerjee said.
Her outburst came after the Centre ordered her top bureaucrat to return to Delhi and sources in the central government told the media that Banerjee had “skipped” a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister.
She also alleged that the Prime Minister had called the meeting only to settle political scores and invited the opposition, which includes his party BJP, and the governor Jagdeep Dhankhar – a departure from the similar cyclone review meetings he had held in Odisha and Gujarat recently.
Talking to the media, Mamata Banerjee said “The Union government targeted me yesterday by giving out selective news. News that was one-sided and there was no way of finding out what the whole story is. So, I decided to hold this press briefing to let you all know what happened overall.”
The chief minister said, “I had made plans to visit cyclone-hit areas. And I had to travel to Sagar and Digha to see the damage caused by Cyclone Yaas. All my plans were made and ready, then suddenly we get a call that Prime Minister wants to visit Bengal to assess the situation after the cyclone. So, we made plans accordingly.
While elaborating the series of the incident, Mamata Banerjee said, “We were made to wait for 20 minutes and were told that the PM’s helicopter will land there, so we waited patiently. By the time we have reached the place where the PM-Chief Minister meeting was to be held, we found out that the PM had already arrived there some time ago and that there was a meeting going on.
“We were asked to wait outside, told that there will be no entry at the moment because a meeting is going on. We waited patiently for a while. Then, when we asked again, we were told that no one can enter for the next one hour.”
Meeting venue changed
“Then someone told us that the meeting has moved to a conference hall, so the Chief Secretary and I decided to go there. When we reached there, we saw the PM was in a meeting with the governor, central leaders and even some MLAs of the opposition party.
“This was clearly against the brief. It was supposed to be only a PM-Chief Minister meeting. So we decided to submit our report to the PM and then with the Prime Minister’s permission we went to Digha. I sought the Prime Minister’s permission three times. I said, ‘Sir, with your kind permission, may I please leave? We need to go to Digha for assessment and the weather is also not too good.” Only then did we left.
“There were some vacant seats, but there was no need to sit as we were leaving for Digha. Next, we see that a photo has been given to the press of vacant seats. That is not done.”
Mamata Banerjee said every time the central government targets me like this. When the PM reviewed in Gujarat, Odisha, other states, opposition party members weren’t present. But in Bengal, opposition leaders were present. Every time you come here, you do something to disturb the functioning of our government.
Ready to touch PM’s feet for people of Bengal
“Why do you humiliate us, only because you cannot digest the fact that you lost the election in Bengal? If the PM tells me to touch his feet in return for his help to Bengal, I am willing to do even that for the people of Bengal and the betterment of Bengal, but please do not play these dirty political games. Do not punish Bengal like this. And do not insult and humiliate the Chief Secretary, who is working hard.”
“I appeal to the Home Minister to take back this letter calling back the Chief Secretary. Why are you targeting him? By doing this you are insulting all Chief Secretaries across the nation – in all states. Do you think the IAS, IPS and other civil services do not have a lobby? Do not insult or challenge them. They work very hard,” Mamata Banerjee said.
“What was the fault of the Chief Secretary? He was working with me; he is a state government officer. Vacant chairs were shown deliberately to project my government in poor light,” the Chief Minister said.
“I had other meetings to attend, took PM’s permission before leaving. Please don’t humiliate me,” Mamata Banerjee said.
BJP Chief JP Nadda on Friday slammed Banerjee over her alleged “absence” from PM Modi’s meeting on Cyclone ‘Yaas’, saying it is a “murder of Constitutional ethos and the culture of cooperative federalism”.