- Mamata Banerjee skipped meet over impact of Cyclone Yaas with PM Modi
- Instead she met PM for 15 minutes and left after handing him a report
- It was their first in-person meet since acrimonious Bengal poll campaign
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday skipped a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to assess the impact of Cyclone Yaas, choosing instead a quick 15-minute interaction with him at an airbase where his flight landed. She was to attend a cyclone damage review with PM Modi but left after handing him a report.
"You wanted to meet me that is why I have come today. Me and my Chief Secretary want to submit this report to you. Now we have a meeting at Digha so we seek your permission to leave," the Chief Minister was quoted as saying.
This was their first face-to-face since the acrimonious Bengal election campaign and Mamata Banerjee's third straight victory.
The alleged snub took place when Prime Minister landed at Kalaikunda airbase in Bengal after an aerial survey of cyclone damage in the state and in Odisha.
Mamata Banerjee's office says she had informed the Centre about her meeting but was asked to wait for PM Modi at the airbase, which enraged her.
But the central government charged Mamata Banerjee with keeping PM Modi and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar waiting for half an hour. A photo tweeted by Mr Dhankhar showed the Prime Minister at the head of a table with BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari - Ms Banerjee's former aide -- and other officials seated to his left and empty chairs to his right.
"The conduct by Mamata Banerjee, even during a natural calamity, is deplorable and reeks of low level petty politics," said sources, giving a version of events that Ms Banerjee may not agree with.
"When PM arrived to attend the review meet, there was no one from the West Bengal government. Both the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary were present in the same premises and YET they did not come to receive the PM," said central government sources.
"Suddenly Mamata Banerjee, in her haughtiness, storms in and hands over a bunch of papers on the cyclone impact to the PM and says that she is leaving as she has other visits lined up. Never before in the history of the Indian Republic has a Chief Minister of a state behaved in such an ugly, disrespectful and arrogant manner with high constitutional position holders such as Prime Minister and Governor," they said.
The Chief Minister is "callous, arrogant and supremely unmindful of the welfare of the people of her state" and has dealt "an unprecedented blow to propriety and federalism" with her petulant behavior, the central government said on what it perceived as a slight.
The Governor straight out accused her of "boycotting" the Prime Minister.
Sources also claimed Mamata Banerjee "did not allow" her officers to make a presentation before the PM.
"The entire presentation was loaded on the screen, however her pettiness prevented officers from presenting it to the PM. The PM took out time to review the damage in West Bengal, but the Chief Minister's politics and pettiness prevented it from happening," the sources said.
According to them, the Chief Minister was upset that Suvendu Adhikari, who is now Bengal Leader of Opposition, was part of the meeting.
Sources in the Bengal government say Ms Banerjee's office had confirmed the time with the PM separately, ahead of the review meeting, and had also informed that she had prior meetings. "It was all agreed, so why was she made to wait," they questioned.
The Chief Minister said her interaction would only take a minute; she went into the review meet, gave the necessary papers to the PM, requested his permission and left, said sources close to her.