Kolkata, Jan 11 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Raj Bhavan here and urged him to reconsider and withdraw the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act along with any proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Briefing the media after the 15-minute meeting, Banerjee said that she also sought Rs 38,000 crore in dues for the state from the Centre. Modi said that he would look into the papers and asked her to meet him in Delhi over the financial demands.
Amid sharp attacks from the Left parties and the Congress over her meeting the Prime Minister at a time when the state is witnessing widespread protests against CAA, Banerjee handed over a shawl, ‘dhuti panjabi’, flowers and sweets to Modi.
On a day protesters virtually laid siege on the city against the Prime Minister’s visit, Banerjee said that it was just a courtesy call and a constitutional duty for her to meet dignitaries like Prime Minister and President — whenever they visit the state.
“I met him here because my state has pending dues of Rs 28,000 crore from the Central government. We also have pending dues of Rs 7,000 crore from the Centre on account of cyclone Bulbul. This is a demand of my state and it is our rightful claim. I told him that we want this money.
“I also spoke to him about our opposition to the CAA, NPR and NRC. There have been widespread protests against all these three. I told him we don’t want any discrimination between people. Nobody should have to leave the country. I asked him to ensure nobody is tortured. As regards CAA and NRC, I asked him to have a rethink. We want it to be withdrawn. I have told him that,” Banerjee said.
“About the state’s pending dues, he said he would look into the papers first. He said he has come only to attend a few programmes. If there is scope, we will talk in Delhi,” she added.
Later, Banerjee shared the stage with the Prime Minister at the Millennium Park, where Modi inaugurated an interactive light and sound show at the iconic Howrah Bridge, christened Rabindra Setu.
This was Banerjee’s second meeting with the Prime Minister after the Lok Sabha polls.
She had called on Modi in New Delhi on September 18, a meeting that had also generated much controversy as it came against the backdrop of then Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Additional Director General Rajeev Kumar fighting court cases against the Central Bureau of Investigation which was seeking his custodial interrogation in connection with the probe into multi-billion ponzi scam cases.
The state BJP, as also the Left Front and the Congress, had then claimed that Banerjee had rushed to Delhi to plead with the Prime Minister so as to save Kumar, considered her blue-eyed boy.
The Trinamool, however, had strongly refuted the allegations.
This time, Banerjee has emerged as one of the first and strident voices of protest against CAA and a proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Last month, the Prime Minister had hit out at Banerjee, accusing her of changing her earlier stand on infiltrators due to “vote-bank” politics.
The opposition parties have lashed out at Banerjee for her decision to boycott Monday’s opposition meeting in Delhi called by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to chalk out a joint strategy against the new citizenship law and the police brutality against students.
“Whatever Banerjee is saying after meeting Modi is nothing but folk drama. Had she wanted to discuss the financial demands, she would have gone with her finance secretary. Add to this her refusal to attend the opposition meeting in Delhi, and you will have no doubt that it was her attempt to come close to the Prime Minister,” said CPI-M politburo member Mohammad Salim.
State Congress President Somen Mitra said that there are serious questions about the genuineness of Banerjee’s movement against CAA and NRC.
“There is a setting between Banerjee and Modi. She is not going to Delhi on Monday to show Modi that she has not joined hands with the Congress, and instead broken opposition unity on the issue,” Mitra said.
Meanwhile, the state BJP leadership saw nothing wrong in the meeting, saying such talks are expected in a federal structure.