Prime Minister Narendra Modi's fifth meeting with state Chief Ministers on coronavirus today took an unexpected turn as Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the Centre of playing politics over the issue and discriminating between states.
The Centre was working according to a "script", Ms Banerjee said. "This is not the time to play politics. Nobody ever asks our opinion… Don't bulldoze the federal structure," sources quoted her as saying at the meeting, called to discuss a phased exit from the lockdown, the migrants' issue and the economic situation.
"When we are cooperating with you, why are you attacking us? Why is it always Bengal, Bengal, Bengal ? Why criticise?" she later told NDTV. The Centre, she said, has said nothing about money. "I don't know if they will give," she added.
A Centre-Bengal face off over the state's management of the corona crisis even since two IMCTs or Inter Ministerial Central Teams arrived in the state on April 20 and stayed for two whole weeks, probing reports of lockdown violation and "fudging" of coronavirus cases.
The teams arrived three hours before the home minister phoned the chief minister to tell her that they were being sent.
Mamata Banerjee had shot off a furious letter to PM Modi, alleging that she had not been formally informed about their visit.
She questioned why her state was chosen for the central teams' assessment, defending the anti-coronavirus measures taken by her administration. Her party leaders accused the Centre of "fighting some states" when they were busy fighting the virus.
The team, which visited the hotspot districts, repeatedly alleged that they got no logistical support from the state and that they had to make their own way, not with state police but with BSF jawans.
In their final assessment, the team said the state was lacking in adequate testing, tracking and surveillance systems.
Last week, Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan identified Bengal among the three states seen as potential hotspots for the disease and the Centre included it among the 10 states, where teams of health experts will be sent to help state governments contain the rapid spread of the infection.