Mamata’s opponents criticise PM’s virtual meet leaving her out as speaker

Published : June 16, 2020 22:36 IST

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Photo: PTI

The absence of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s name in the list of speakers for the second virtual meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 17 has caused a political furore in West Bengal, with both the ruling party and some of the opposition condemning the Centre’s decision in unequivocal terms.

Heavyweights of the ruling Trinamool Congress came down heavily on the Centre, accusing it of deliberately humiliating the State. Party general secretary and State Education minister and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Partha Chatterjee posted on social media: “The Centre has once again humiliated the people of Bengal and decided to silence @MamataOfficial. Consultation in the name of video conferences is a mere hogwash if the Chief Ministers aren't allowed to put forth their concerns.”

Former Railway Minister and senior Trinamool leader Dinesh Trivedi said, “It seems the Centre’s so worried about exposing itself to @MamataOfficial’s constructive criticism on #COVID response that our hon’ble CM’s been reduced to just a mute spectator for the latest round of VCs with the PM. People of Bengal won’t forgive this!”

The decision by the Centre has come as a surprise given the crisis the State is facing with the spike in the number of COVID cases, mainly due to the return of migrant workers who were for so long stranded in different parts of the country. The State and the Centre have been at loggerheads over the issue, with the Centre accusing Mamata of dragging her feet in allowing the Shramik Specials trains to enter Bengal with the migrants, and Mamata blaming the Centre for sending them back in an “unplanned manner” and thereby causing an increase in the number of COVID cases in the State. Mamata has also repeatedly blamed the Centre for creating the migrant crisis by not arranging for their return before announcing the nationwide lockdown. Moreover Bengal’s COVID situation has been worsened by the super cyclone Amphan that ravaged the State on May 20.

Even some of Mamata’s bitter political opponents have condemned the Centre’s decision. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) veteran and leader of the Left Front Legislature Party Sujan Chakraborty told Frontline, “This should not have been done. It was very important to allow the State to speak, as West Bengal is among the five States where the spread of COVID-19 is particularly high. Moreover, by not allowing the State government to speak, the Centre is also denying itself the scope of being aware of the lapses of the government in tackling the situation. By doing this the Centre is deliberately ignoring West Bengal. The fact is, the BJP have never given any importance to Bengal and to Bengalis, nor have they ever tried to understand the Bengali outlook.” Pradesh Congress president Somen Mitra said that having these video conference meetings is “fast becoming a meaningless exercise”.

As of June 16, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the State stood at 11,909, including 5,257 active cases. The total number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the State was 505, and the recovery rate was 50.61 per cent. The total number of samples tested till June 16 was 3,51,754, with the rate of testing standing at 3,908 per million population.

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