On Friday, Mamata Banerjee stirred the hornet’s nest when she decided to make a massive hue and cry about a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to assess the aftermath of cyclone Yaas. The chief minister, who was out for a survey of cyclone-hit areas, told media at Sagar Island in South 24-Parganas district, “I will not be a part of the review meeting called by PM Modi. It will take 45 minutes for me to reach Kalaikunda. I have prepared a preliminary report on the estimated loss due to Cyclone in Bengal. I will just hand over the report to PM Modi.”
Post Mamata Banerjee skipping the meeting, a massive political row erupted that has now descended into Mamata Banerjee making wild claims after realising that her decision to make the Prime Minister wait for the meeting and then spread misleading information about what really transpired, was perhaps backfiring.
Reportedly, Prime Minister Modi landed at the Kalaikunda airbase in West Bengal after his aerial survey, where a review meeting was scheduled between 2:30 pm and 3:30 pm today. The Chief Minister of West Bengal was expected to join the meeting with Prime Minister Modi to take stock of the cyclone situation in West Bengal. However, Mamata Banerjee arrived 30 minutes late to the review meeting despite being at the same premises. Reportedly, Mamata Banerjee did not even bother to receive both the Prime Minister and the Governor of West Bengal.
After the blowback for making the Prime Minister wait, Mamata Banerjee began to sing a different tune. After talking about the Prime Minister targeting Bengal because BJP lost the state in the recently concluded Assembly Elections, Banerjee made several statements that seem to have no basis in truth.
Statement 1: ‘Was informed late about the meeting’
Mamata Banerjee firstly said that she was informed late about the meeting with the Prime Minister and had cut her own meeting short to ensure that she could be present there. However, this statement makes little to no sense. Speaking to OpIndia, sources within the government of India said that “The PM’s visit was to assess damage due to Cyclone Yaas, so it cannot be finalised before the Cyclone comes“. Sources further said that even after cyclone Amphan, the same timeline of visits was followed and at that time, no such issues had arisen. In fact, Odisha also managed the program extremely well, which was actually right before the PM visited Bengal.
Statement 2: ‘Programs were already fixed’
In fact, as a follow-up, Mamta Banerjee had also claimed that her programs were already fixed and that there is no need for the Chief Minister herself to receive the PM.
The government has, however, strongly rebutted this. Sources have informed that Mamata Banerjee had agreed to attend the meeting and therefore, it is hard to believe that scheduling was a problem at all. In fact, Mamata had also written a letter on Friday itself raising opposition to Suvendu Adhikari, BJP’s LoP and the man who defeated Mamata in Nandigram, being present at the meeting. She had said that it is a government-to-government meeting and therefore, the presence of Adhikari was not desirable. GOI sources have said that she did not attend the meeting because of the presence of Adhikari and not because there was a scheduling issue.
Statement 3: Claims that it was her who was made to wait by the Prime Minister
Further, Mamata Banerjee, after it was reported that she made the PM wait for 30 minutes for the meeting, claimed that it was in fact her who was made to wait. She said that after the venue of the meeting was changed to the conference hall, she was asked to wait for an hour before the meeting would begin. However, that does not seem to be the case.
The government of India told OpIndia that the PM landed at Kalaikunda at 1359 hours. Mamata Banerjee landed at Kalaikunda after the PM at 1410 hours. It is clear that PM was kept waiting for Mamata Banerjee as he landed much before her. The GOI sources said further, “Upon descending from the chopper, she reached the meeting building, which was around 500 metres away. After meeting the PM, she departed for her next journey at 1435 hours. So in effect, she travelled 500 metres to and fro, met PM and departed in 25 minutes. She left before the PM left, which is clearly contrary to accepted practices and protocol. It is clear that Mamata Banerjee’s statement of being made to wait is entirely false and that she made the PM wait”.
This also essentially means that Mamata Banerjee hardly assessed the damage created by cyclone Yaas along with the Prime Minister. She skipped the meeting entirely, merely handed over whatever document she wanted to hand over, and left before the meeting was concluded and the PM had left.
Interestingly, while Mamata Banerjee claimed that it was in fact her who was made to wait by the Prime Minister, TMC MP Mohua Moitra admitted that it was in fact Prime Minister who was made to wait by the Chief Minister.
So much fuss over an alleged 30 min wait?— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) May 28, 2021
Indians waiting 7 years for ₹15 lakhs
Waiting hours at ATM queues
Waiting months for vaccines due
Thoda aap bhi wait kar lijiye kabhi kabhi…
Statement 4: Ignorance about PM’s security protocol
Mamata Banerjee did not just stop at misrepresenting facts about her waiting for the PM. She even claimed that she had to wait for 20 minutes at Sagar because the Prime Minister’s chopper was to land, and almost to insinuate as if it was done deliberately, she claimed that then the helicopter hovered in the air for 15 minutes. Interestingly, in this statement, she has refused to take into account that just because she dislikes the Prime Minister, does not mean that his security will not make adequate arrangements, as has been done for every PM of the country. One has to wonder why she did not arrive on time herself when she had, in fact, agreed to the meeting in advance.
Essentially, following are the statements that were made by Mamata Banerjee which seem to be downright false, to justify her behaving unprofessionally and making the Prime Minister wait for a pre-scheduled meeting.
- She claimed that she was informed about the meeting with the Prime Minister late – The truth is that a review meeting for a cyclone cannot be scheduled before the cyclone actually hits. Besides, she had agreed to the meeting and raised an objection about the presence of Suvendu Adhikari. Therefore, it stands to reason that being informed “late” was certainly not the reason for her behaviour.
- She claimed that it was her who waited to meet the Prime Minister: Government sources have clarified how she landed at the meeting venue late, was in the same premises and still arrived late and then, left in 25 minutes. It, therefore, seems that her claim about being the one made to wait by the PM was nothing but a misrepresentation of facts.
- She claims that her programs were already fixed: This again seems to be a gross misrepresentation since she had agreed to the meeting and even written a letter taking offence to the presence of Suvendu Adhikari. If she had prior commitments, the letter would have been about that – not agreeing to meet in a ‘government-to-government meeting’ where Adhikari supposedly should not be there.
- Her complaining about the chopper and having to wait for 20 minutes: It is pertinent to note that professionalism dictates that the CM reaches a bit ahead of the arrival of the PM. She clearly did not do that. Besides, one would expect a CM to know that the security protocol of the PM of India is sacrosanct.
From the facts that have been laid out, it would appear that Mamata Banerjee displayed petty political considerations and made a hue and cry about a meeting with the Prime Minister of India to evaluate the aftermath of cyclone Yaas. When questioned, she tried to invent reasons to justify her behaviour, however, the facts do not seem to support her.