Politics and business were kept separate on Saturday when Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Kolkata as chief minister Mamata Banerjee held a meeting with him before joining a protest against the new citizenship law.
Banerjee, who has been at the forefront of the agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens (NRC), met the Prime Minister at Raj Bhavan, the official residence of the West Bengal Governor.
Banerjee said it was a courtesy meeting. “It is my constitutional duty to meet the Prime Minister when he is visiting. We have demanded Rs 28,000 crore that is due to us and Rs 7,000 crore on account of Bulbul (cyclone). The Prime Minister has said that he will check on this,” she said.
Banerjee added that she also raised the issue of CAA, NRC and NPR. “We are against it and I have said that it should be reconsidered and withdrawn,” she said. The meeting took place shortly after Modi landed in Kolkata amid widespread protests over the citizenship law, which was notified by the Centre on Friday. In fact, faced with protesters outside the airport, Modi took a helicopter to Race Course Turf Club from the airport before proceeding to Raj Bhavan. The original plan was for him to travel by road.
The Banerjee’s meeting with Modi provided added ammunition to Opposition parties, who dubbed the Trinamool Congress as the BJP's B-team.
Right after the meeting Banerjee headed to Rani Rashmoni Road nearby to participate in a protest against CAA-NRC-NPR.
Banerjee said there that peaceful protests against CAA and NRC would continue. She added that the CAA would not be implemented in the state. “This is unconstitutional. We will not implement NRC, CAA or NPR,” she said. From the protest site, Banerjee headed for Millennium Park, where Prime Minister Modi unveiled a dynamic illumination of the Howrah Bridge as part of 150th celebrations of Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT). She, however, skipped a cultural programme at Old Currency Building.
But the situation went out of hand when Banerjee again headed to the protest site. Students protesting in the vicinity headed there and sloganeered against the meeting.
There was a minor scuffle with the police as they tried to break the barricade. Banerjee tried her best to pacify them by saying that it was her constitutional duty to meet the Prime Minister. “There were four events, I attended one,” she said.
Banerjee, however, is set to share the stage again with Modi on Sunday at an event to mark 150 years of Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT). Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar would also be there.
Prime Minister Modi is staying the night at Belur Math.