4 months after meeting in Delhi, PM Modi, Mamata to share dais at Kolkata event
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee will attend NGC meeting where union ministers and CMs of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand will be present. State officials said she might also attend the Vande Bharat Express event at Howrah
KOLKATA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for the second time since August when he arrives in Kolkata on Friday to flag-off Bengal’s first Vande Bharat Express, chair the second meeting of the National Ganga Council (NGC) and inaugurate a number of central projects.
Banerjee will attend the NGC meeting where several union ministers and the chief ministers of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand will be present, PM Modi’s office said in a statement on Thursday. NGC is the nodal body for preventing pollution in the Ganga and its tributaries.
On his first visit to Bengal since the 2021 assembly polls, Modi will also inaugurate multiple sewerage infrastructure projects worth over ₹2,550 crore built under the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) for four Bengal districts.
Modi and Banerjee will come face-to-face at the event at a time Bengal is witnessing a political slugfest over alleged irregularities in selection of applicants for the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) housing scheme for the poor, forcing the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government to delete thousands of names. The BJP has launched movements in the districts on this issue in the run-up to the panchayat polls to be held in early-2023.
“The purpose of the Prime Minister’s visit shows how sincere the Centre is about Bengal’s development. We are highlighting this in a campaign. Banerjee needs to take lessons on federal politics from the Odisha chief minister who is serious about development of his state. We hope Banerjee will not do anything embarrassing tomorrow,” BJP legislator Agnimitra Paul said.
Paul’s comment was a reference to the last occasion when PM Modi and chief minister Banerjee were at the same event in Kolkata on January 23 last year when Banerjee took offence to the Jai Sri Ram slogan being raised by BJP workers at a central government event marking Subhas Chandra Bose’s 124th birth anniversary.
State government officials said the chief minister - who met Modi at his Delhi residence in August and submitted a memorandum to seek release of Central funds due to the state - may also attend the launch of the Kolkata-Jalpaiguri Vande Bharat Express at Howrah station.
Banerjee met Union home minister Amit Shah on the sidelines of the Eastern Zonal Council meet during his visit to Kolkata on December 17. She also attended the Delhi meeting chaired by PM Modi earlier this month to discuss India’s G20 presidency.
Banerjee’s recent meetings with Modi and Shah caused discomfort for Bengal BJP leaders because the Left and Congress called these “part of match fixing” amid multiple probes by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) against top TMC leaders including Banerjee’s nephew, Abhishek.
The campaign by Left and Congress intensified further when Banerjee refused to attack the Prime Minister over the bridge collapse at Gujarat’s Morbi, saying she does not want to make the death of more than 130 people a political issue.
“I will not make any comment on Prime Minister Modi. Gujarat is his state. It is a tragic incident. I offer my condolences to the families of the bereaved. This is not a political issue,” Banerjee said on November 2.
On September 19, when the Bengal assembly passed a resolution accusing the CBI and ED of indulging in excesses, Banerjee said she does not believe that Modi is instructing federal agencies to use power beyond their limits against TMC leaders.
“You are possibly not aware that these agencies are no longer under the Prime Minister’s office. They are now controlled by the Union home ministry,” she said in her speech during discussion on the resolution.
She did not name anyone. “The central government and a section of BJP leaders are behind this. Bengal’s BJP leaders want the agencies to serve their political agenda. The Prime Minister is possibly not aware of this.”
Alleging that the TMC government was misusing funds and renaming Central schemes for political mileage, the BJP has been demanding since 2020 that funds for social welfare projects be stopped.
However, Banerjee’s meetings with Modi and Shah apparently paid off.
On November 24, the Union rural development ministry sanctioned ₹13,000 crore for building 11,34,000 homes under the PMAY project in Bengal, partially clearing a financial impasse that arose because of suspension of central funds for welfare schemes. The Union finance ministry sent a letter the same day stating that ₹814 crore had been cleared towards compensation for Goods and Services Tax (GST).
On Friday, Modi will also inaugurate the Joka-Taratala stretch of the Kolkata Metro, lay the foundation stone of multiple railway projects and inaugurate Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee National Institute of Water and Sanitation in Kolkata, the PM’s office announced.
Bengal BJP’s chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said Modi will not hold any meeting with state BJP leaders but leader of the opposition in the state assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, and state president Sukanta Majumdar may attend the event at Howrah station as invitees.