West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrived in Delhi on Monday for a five-day visit, during which she is likely to meet Opposition leaders and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to The Hindu.
Banerjee will first meet Congress leader Kamal Nath at 2 pm, according to NDTV. At 3 pm, she is scheduled to meet Nath’s colleague Anand Sharma. Banerjee’s meeting with Modi will be at 4 pm. At 6.30 pm, she will meet Congress’ Abhishek Manu Singhvi. The West Bengal chief minister will also reportedly meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and President Ram Nath Kovind during her visit.
This will be the first meeting between Banerjee and Modi after the West Bengal elections in May, which the Trinamool Congress had swept. The West Bengal chief minister has heavily criticised Modi over a range of matters, including the shortages of Covid-19 vaccine doses and, most recently, the Pegasus controversy.
Banerjee had also criticised the Centre for initiating disciplinary action against former West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay. The bureaucrat had been summoned by the Centre to Delhi on May 28, in response to accusations that Banerjee had kept Modi waiting while at a meeting on the aftermath of Cyclone Yaas and had then left without his permission.
West Bengal refused to comply with the Modi government’s summons. Instead, Bandyopadhyay retired from the Indian Administrative Service and joined the West Bengal government as a chief advisor to the chief minister, a political appointment that underscored his importance to Banerjee.
The West Bengal chief minister is scheduled to spend a day in the Parliament, where she will meet Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and leaders from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Rashtriya Janata Dal, according to The Hindu.
An unidentified Trinamool Congress leader indicated that her visit was planned to discuss the 2024 Lok Sabha elections with Opposition parties.
“I think it is clear to everyone in the opposition that 2024 is a very crucial election, and there is a big challenge,” the leader told The Indian Express. “It is also a good sign that seriousness has set in now, when there is time to fight, and fall out, and come together; iron out the chinks as they say. With her decisive win of Narendra Modi, Banerjee will have a big role to play.”
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien told The Hindu, “This is an important visit of Mamata Banerjee and this is an important week for the Indian politics.”
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party claimed that Banerjee went to Delhi to avoid criticism about post-election violence in the state and the uncovering of unauthorised vaccination camps, The Indian Express reported.
“She [Banerjee] now wants to relax and get some relief from the pressures for some days,” BJP leader Dilip Ghosh said. “That’s why she has gone to Delhi. She is also meeting the prime minister to seek financial help for the state.”
Ghosh said Banerjee won’t succeed in her efforts to unite the Opposition. “Before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, she held a public meeting with Opposition leaders at Brigade Parade Grounds,” he said, according to The Indian Express. “After the election, all those parties lost relevance in politics and the Trinamool Congress also lost seats. This time as well, her efforts will not succeed.”