West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed concern that the faux pas that happened during her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Kalaikunda may have prompted the Centre to recall Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay on the normal date of his superannuation.
The chief minister, however, said that the incident was a result of the clash of schedule and it should not be taken as otherwise in the political discourse.
In a five-page letter written to the Prime Minister, Banerjee said, “The unilateral order also does not provide any details, reasons and/ or particulars as to why ‘central deputation of Alapan Bandyopadhyay IAS, Chief Secretary, West Bengal required suddenly by you only few days after granting an order of extension following, due consultation process.
“Does it have something to do with our meeting at Kalaikunda on 28th May, 2021?”
The chief minister also said that she was really ‘shocked’ because she cannot “understand what happened between your allowing extension to the officer as Chief Secretary a few days back on 24th May, 2021 after Centre-State consultation to enable him to serve the State of West Bengal in these times, and your unilateral order (4 days later) issued in contradiction to the extension granted by you”.
“I really and sincerely hope that this latest order is not related to my meeting with you at Kalaikunda. If that be the reason, it would be sad, unfortunate and would amount to sacrificing public interest at the altar of misplaced priorities,” she added.
Making it clear that the situation that happened was a result of the clash of schedules and not for any political difference, the chief minister wrote, “In any case, to recall the correct facts, you had visited Kalaikunda, after an aerial survey of the cyclone-affected areas, to have a meeting with me on 28th May, 2021.
“I had pre-scheduled aerial surveys and review meetings in the affected areas myself, but I re-scheduled everything to rush to Kalaikunda to attend the meeting with you, accompanied by the Chief Secretary of my State”.
“We did aerial surveys and meetings at Hingalganj in North 24 Parganas and Sagar in South 24 Parganas before flying to Kalaikunda to meet you.
“I was detained at Sagar, flight permissions were delayed to make room for your movements, and yet I reached Kalaikunda before the scheduled meeting at 2.30 p.m., only to show utmost respect to your office, and to have a meaningful discussion with you on the damage caused by the cyclone and measures to mitigate it,” she added.
However, the chief minister didn’t leave the opportunity to remind the Prime Minister that proper protocol was not followed in the PM and CM meeting.
“I wanted to have a quiet word with you, a meeting between the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister as usual. You however revised the structure of the meeting to include a local MLA from your party and I am of the view (based on my knowledge of the affairs of the State for about 40 years) that he had no locus to be present in a PM-CM meeting.”
“You had invited the Hon’ble Governor and some Union Ministers also to the meeting, which I had not objected to (the Hon’ble Governor had no role to play in this meeting either, as per our Constitutional scheme, as you also very well know, but I am refraining from commenting further in this regard as gesture of propriety and courtesy), but an individual MLA, having no locus, attending the meeting was unacceptable,” she added.
“Finally, keeping aside my legitimate reservations, I entered the meeting with the Chief Secretary of my State to hand over our report-to you. You personally took the report from my hand, and then I specifically and expressly sought permission from you for us to leave for Digha, our next cyclone-ravaged destination, where a meeting was due and participants were waiting. You expressly permitted us to take our leave. The matter must and ought to end there,” she wrote.