Mamata Banerjee met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence in Delhi today. This was the Bengal Chief Minister's first meeting with the Prime Minister after the acrimonious Bengal election campaign in which the two clashed frequently.
After the meeting, she told reporters that there should be a Supreme Court-monitored inquiry into the Pegasus scandal involving opposition leaders, two union ministers and 40 journalists revealed as potential targets of surveillance using Israeli Pegasus spyware that is sold only to governments. The allegations have virtually blocked the monsoon session of parliament with the opposition demanding answers from PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
Ms Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee is among the potential targets whose names have surfaced as part of a worldwide investigation by a media consortium that includes India's The Wire. Yesterday, she announced a judicial inquiry led by former Supreme Court judges - the first since the Pegasus scandal broke - to investigate reports that many Bengal leaders were targeted.
The Chief Minister said in her meeting with PM Modi - she described it as a 'courtesy visit' - she had discussed the Covid situation, the supply of vaccines and medicine to the state and also a proposal to rename Bengal as Bangla. "I should not speak what the PM said," she told reporters when pressed for details.
She said she was also supposed to meet President Ram Nath Kovind. "But the problem is they are asking me to have an RT-PCR done before meeting him. I have got both the doses though. Where will I go here," she said.
Tomorrow, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has invited the Bengal Chief Minister, whose three-day visit to Delhi is packed with politically significant meetings. Ms Banerjee will also meet Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday.
Earlier today, Ms Banerjee met with Congress leaders Kamal Nath and Anand Sharma.
Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav is also expected to call on her. "I will also have a meeting with Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi," she told reporters.
Ms Banerjee has been a key figure in speculation swirling around the opposition's attempts to join forces to take on PM Modi and the BJP in the 2024 national election. Her recent election victory in Bengal has buttressed her image as an opposition face that can challenge the BJP's might.
She was last week named leader of the Trinamool parliamentary party though she is not an MP. The new role signals her readiness to play a larger role in national politics beyond Bengal.
Ms Banerjee and PM Modi had met briefly in May, when Ms Banerjee's move to skip PM Modi's Cyclone Yaas review meeting became a huge flashpoint between the Centre and Bengal. Ms Banerjee left the meeting after handing over a report. Then Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, caught in the crossfire, was recalled by the Centre but he retired on May 31 and became special adviser to the Bengal Chief Minister. In June the Centre warned him of "major penalty proceedings" for allegedly "not attending" the PM's review meeting.