West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee may not attend the virtual meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the coronavirus pandemic with the chief ministers on Wednesday after the state was not allowed a spot as a speaker, reports said.
The Prime Minister has been holding consultations with the chief ministers from Tuesday as the country gradually emerges out of lockdown in the backdrop of the rising number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in the country.
Prime Minister Modi will discuss the pandemic situation in Delhi on Wednesday along with Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka, Gujarat, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
On Tuesday, he held a video conference with the CMs from Punjab, Assam, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh among other states.
News agency PTI said Mamata Banerjee is “undecided” about participating in a virtual meeting.
It cited unnamed sources from her party, the Trinamool Congress, saying that Banerjee is still undecided about attending the meeting and the state would be represented in it by a senior government official.
“What is the need for attending the meeting if you are not allowed to speak … The chief minister is still undecided about attending the meeting with the prime minister,” a senior TMC leader told PTI.
The sources, PTI said, that West Bengal has been invited to the meeting but has not been slotted as one of the speakers.
This has kicked off a political storm in the state with the TMC criticising the Union government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for defending the “Centre’s decision as the right one”.
“It seems the Centre’s so worried about exposing itself to @MamataOfficial’s constructive criticism on #COVID response that our hon’ble CM’s been reduced to just a mute spectator for the latest round of VCs with the PM. People of Bengal won’t forgive this,” Dinesh Trivedi, senior TMC leader and MP, tweeted.
Trivedi’s remark was echoed by the TMC’s secretary general Partha Chatterjee. He said it is an attempt by the Centre to suppress West Bengal’s voice.
“Just because Mamata Banerjee has been pointing out the lapses and wrong decisions in implementing the lockdown, she has been blacked out in the meeting. This is an attempt to scuttle democracy and the BJP government’s inability to face constructive criticism. We condemn it,” he said.
The BJP’s West Bengal unit president Dilip Ghosh supported the Centre’s decision of not giving Banerjee the chance to speak and said the state government, apart from seeking funds, has done nothing during the previous such meetings.
“The West Bengal government has been a complete failure in implementing the lockdown in the state. It has been busy in blaming the central government. In previous meetings our chief minister has done nothing apart from seeking funds,” Ghosh alleged.
Banerjee had slammed the central government for “playing politics” on the issue of Covid-19 by trying to shift the blame on the states during the last virtual meeting between Modi and the chief ministers.
She had said the onus lies with the Centre to come out with a clear strategy for the way forward.
West Bengal has reported 11,494 cases of the coronavirus disease and 485 people have died so far, according to the Union health ministry.
(With agency inputs)