- Mamata Banerjee had said she would try to attend PM Modi's oath ceremony
- BJP has invited families of party workers allegedly killed in West Bengal
- Her RSVP came as BJP said its workers were killed by Trinamool members
Mamata Banerjee, after claiming she would try to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi's oath ceremony in Delhi on Thursday as a constitutional duty, pulled a 180-degree today saying: "Please excuse me". The Bengal Chief Minister, in a curt letter posted on Twitter, referred to the BJP's allegation that 54 of its workers had been killed in political violence in the state and called it "completely untrue".
"The ceremony is an august occasion to celebrate democracy, not one that should be devalued by any political party that uses it as an opportunity to score political points," Mamata Banerjee wrote in her RSVP, referring to the BJP's move to invite the family of the workers.
The BJP said following a decision taken by PM Modi and Amit Shah last night, it had decided to invite the families of workers allegedly killed in Bengal over the last six years. That the families were special invitees was seen as a blunt message for the Bengal Chief Minister. The BJP alleges its workers were killed by Trinamool members during Panchayat or local body polls and the national election. With the invitation, the party said, it wants to convey to its cadre in Bengal that the central leadership cares and stands by them against "violence by Trinamool Congress workers".
Hours after the BJP's move came Mamata Banerjee's acrid response.
"Congratulations, new Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji. It was my plan to accept the 'constitutional invitation' and attend the oath-taking ceremony. However, in the last one hour, I am seeing media reports that the BJP are claiming 54 people have been murdered in political violence in Bengal. This is completely untrue. There have been no political murders in Bengal," said the Chief Minister, adding that the deaths may have taken place due to personal enmity, family quarrels and other disputes, "nothing related to politics".
"So, I am sorry, Narendra Modi Ji, this has compelled me not to attend the ceremony," she wrote.
Sources in the BJP said Ms Banerjee can hardly complain when she, too, invited political violence victims to her oath ceremony in 2011.
"Mamata Banerjee' oath-taking on May 20, 2011, was attended by the families of 'victims of political violence in Nandigram and Singur'. The then outgoing Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who she accused of ordering the killings, attended Ms Banerjee's oath-taking along with Left Front chairman Biman Bose. Mr Bhattacharjee had not objected to the presence of those families," BJP sources said.
On Tuesday, the Bengal Chief Minister had surprised many by saying she would try to attend PM Modi's swearing in, that too on a day the BJP flaunted a large flock of defectors from her Trinamool Congress and threatened more crossovers. She said she had consulted with her contemporaries in other states and believed "there are certain constitutional obligations that we try to fulfil."
After a bitterly fought national election in which the BJP ended up with 18 seats in 42-seat Bengal - only a few less than the state's ruling Trinamool that dropped from 34 in 2014 to 22 - the BJP has kept up its campaign for Bengal.
Kailash Vijayavargiya, the BJP leader in charge of Bengal, said: "Our workers' families wanted to come. If Mamata didi has a problem with that, we can't do anything."