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Bengal BJP terms CM-PM meeting 'photo op', questions Mamata's commitment to securing funds

Kolkata: The West Bengal BJP on Wednesday described the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as a mere “political photo op” expressing scepticism about her commitment to addressing the financial needs of the state.

The party questioned the presence of a Trinamool Congress (TMC) delegation accompanying Banerjee instead of administrative officials during the meeting.

Banerjee called on the Prime Minister on Wednesday to discuss the pending central funds for the state.

She revealed that Modi suggested that officials of the state and the Centre collaborate to resolve outstanding issues.

BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya remarked, “She was not at all serious about securing due funds for Bengal. She is more interested in a political photo op. If she genuinely cared about the state’s dues, she would have been accompanied by administrative officials such as the chief secretary and finance secretary. However, she opted to bring her party MPs.”

Bhattacharya claimed that the meeting aimed at conveying a message ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, emphasising that the TMC is solely focused on the state’s interests.

“If the TMC government genuinely sought the due funds, they would have submitted details of previous fund expenditures. Instead, they are playing to the gallery before the elections,” he added.

The TMC, however, expressed confidence that the funds would be released soon.

“The meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere. We remain hopeful that positive results will emerge, and the funds will be released promptly,” stated senior TMC MP Sougata Roy, downplaying the “negative assertions” from the saffron camp.

The withholding of West Bengal’s MGNREGA dues by the Centre has been a prominent political issue in the state for the past year.

In March, Banerjee staged a two-day sit-in in Kolkata against the Centre’s decision to withhold the state’s dues.

The issue gained traction during the rural polls in June-July, where the TMC capitalised on public grievances.

In October, TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, accompanied by party legislators and MGNREGA workers, protested at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, seeking a meeting with the Minister of State for Rural Development. However, they claimed the minister declined to meet them after making them wait for about an hour and a half.

Subsequently, Abhishek Banerjee organised a five-day sit-in outside Raj Bhawan in Kolkata to protest against the alleged withholding of West Bengal’s MGNREGA dues by the Centre.

(Published 20 December 2023, 13:30 IST)

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