Deferment of Eastern Zonal Council meet bursts bubble of speculation

At a time when the mercury of the forthcoming thrills in West Bengal politics was taking a northward drive over a series of crucial meetings with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as the common thread, a decision of the Union Home Ministry on Saturday took out much of the fizz from the excitement.

The decision to postpone the Eastern Zonal Council meeting at the West Bengal state secretariat Nabanna scheduled on November 5, which was supposed to be attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Chief Ministers from five states — West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Sikkim — acted as the principal mood dampener on this count.

Political observers feel that the Eastern Zonal Council meeting was crucial from multiple angles, which were both administrative and political from West Bengal’s point of view.

They feel that the meeting in itself was crucial since it would have given a chance to Banerjee to raise her reservation in front of the Union Home Minister on contentious issues like extension of Border Security Force’s (BSF) jurisdiction area to 50 km within the Indo-Bangladesh borders in the state or the recent announcement of Shah to open National Investigation Agency (NIA) offices in all state capitals.

Equally interesting would have been Shah’s observations on these issues.

While that was the administrative interest angle concerning the meeting, there was a number of peripheral interest angles which were purely political.

First was related to a possibility of a one-to-one meeting between Shah and Banerjee on the sidelines of the administrative event, the fallout of which could have been crucial in the current politically-heated ambience in the state in the backdrop of the increased activities of central agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the state.

Secondly, the postponement also fizzled out the efforts on the part of the Trinamool Congress to fix a separate one-to-one meeting between Banerjee and her counterpart in Bihar and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar, who was scheduled to attend the Eastern Zonal Council meeting on November 5.

Recently, after Kumar snapped ties with the BJP and became the Chief Minister with the support of RJD, Banerjee had said that before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, all anti-BJP forces will unite where she specially took the name of her counterpart in Bihar, though she refrained from taking the name of Congress.

At the same time, the Bengal unit of BJP was also planning to use the opportunity of Shah’s visit to its benefit by arranging an interaction between the Home Minister and those protesting for over 500 days against the multi-crore teacher recruitment scam.

That opportunity has also fizzled out following the postponement of the administrative meeting.

However, the coming month of November will continue to carry some thrills over two other forthcoming events again with Banerjee as the common thread.

On November 2, Banerjee is scheduled to fly to Chennai to attend the 80th birth anniversary of the elder brother of West Bengal Governor, La Ganesan. The Chief Minister has agreed to attend the meeting following personal invitation from the Governor, who visited the Chief Minister’s residence on Monday on the occasion of the Kali Puja.

However, sources in the state secretariat said that the main focus of the Chief Minister’s Chennai visit will be her probable meeting with Tamil Nadu CM and DMK leader M.K. Stalin.

Mamata will fly to Chennai on November 2 and will be back in Kolkata the next day. Political observers in the state are speculating whether she would have a separate meeting with Stalin during her short visit to the southern state.

Finally, all eyes will be on the closing part of November when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Kolkata to attend an official programme on ‘Namami Gange’, an integrated conservation mission of the Union government to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of River Ganges.

Although the date of the programme and the Prime Minister’s scheduled visit are yet to be finalised, the entire focus of the political circles in the state will be glued to that on two counts.

First, will the Prime Minister and the West Bengal Chief Minister be seen on the same dais. Second, will there be a one-to-one meeting between Banerjee and Modi.

If the meeting happens, feel political observers, opposition parties like the CPI(M) and Congress will hint towards a probable BJP-Trinamool understanding in the backdrop of the current activities of the central agencies in the state over various issues of corruption involving Trinamool leaders.

If the meeting does not happen, speculation will do the rounds as to whether the central agency actions will accelerate in the state in the coming days.

Of late, several BJP leaders in West Bengal, without specifying any details, have claimed that December will witness a lot of interesting sequence of events in state politics.

So, from that point of view, the meetings in the month of November will be in focus to give a hint as to what will happen next.




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