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Mamata Banerjee says keen to meet Amit Shah, extends olive branch to PM

In an effort to send a signal that she was extending an olive branch to the PM, Banerjee said she has invited Modi to inaugurate the Deocha Pachami coal block in Birbhum

Archis Mohan  |  New Delhi 

Mamata vs CBI
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee

As she met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and hoped to meet Home Minister Amit Shah during her ongoing visit to the capital, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday indicated that she was keen to move on from the recriminations of the Lok Sabha poll campaign between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s top leadership and herself.

Banerjee, who also heads the Trinamool Congress, is on a three-day visit to the capital. After the meeting, Banerjee refused to answer any “political” questions, insisting that it was a “government to government” meeting and discussion was mostly on development issues of Bengal.

In an effort to send a signal that she was extending an olive branch to the PM, Banerjee said she has invited Modi to inaugurate the Deocha Pachami coal block in Birbhum, the second largest coal block in the world, after Durga Puja/Navaratri. Banerjee said the coal block is set to get investments of Rs 12,000 crore and generate hundreds of jobs. “We have submitted a security of Rs 50,000 crore for this. All agreements are done. I have invited him to inaugurate it after Navaratri and Durga Puja whenever he has time,” she said.

This was Banerjee's first meeting with the PM after his re-election. She did not turn up for the NITI Aayog meeting in August. She did not attend Modi's swearing-in in May. Banerjee had not met Modi after the Visva Bharati University convocation at Shantiniketan in May 2018. The Lok Sabha campaign in Bengal was marred by much vitriol between the leaders.

Banerjee said she was keen to meet Home Minister Shah as well. This led opposition leaders in Bengal to insinuate that she hoped to save her party colleagues, as also former Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar who the CBI could arrest in the days to come.

West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said he is happy that Banerjee's "good sense" has prevailed that she has met the PM. “But I think it's too late. Her attempts to save herself and her party from CBI will not yield any results. The law will take its own course and all those who have looted public money or have aided the culprits will have to go behind the bars," Ghosh said.

Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury agreed. “She did not attend earlier meetings called by the Centre. So what was the urgency that she has to meet the prime minister and now wants to meet Amit Shah all of a sudden? So it is anybody's guess what actually is her demand,” Chowdhury said.

Assembly polls in Bengal are due in April-May 2021, some 18-months away, and the BJP has surged in popularity in the state, improving its vote share and winning significant number of seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The BJP, however, is set to be relentless in its campaign in Bengal. BJP chief Amit Shah and its working president J P Nadda will visit Bengal ahead of the Durga puja. Nadda is likely to visit Bengal on September 27, to address a programme on abolition of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir that gave it special status. Shah is likely to visit Bengal either on October 1 or 2 to inaugurate Durga pujas in the city.

During the meeting with the PM, Banerjee said she discussed the issue of renaming the state. The West Bengal assembly has passed a resolution to rename the state as 'Bangla'. She said the NRC, or Register of Citizens, process did not feature during her discussion with the PM. She said there was no proposal for an NRC in Bengal. Her party is opposed to the NRC process in the state.

The Bengal CM said she discussed issues related to privatisation/disinvestment of BSNL, ordnance factories, railway and coal sector. In Bengal, the Trinamool has been at the forefront of protests against disinvestment of public sector undertakings, or PSUs.

“We submitted documents to substantiate the requests we made. Bengal's GDP is 12.8, which is highest across the country. We showed him how Bengal is progressing despite huge debt burden. We also gave him documents to highlight our achievements in the field of economy and infrastructure," she said.

The Prime Minister's Office tweeted pictures of the two leaders at the official residence of Modi.

First Published: Wed, September 18 2019. 20:49 IST