West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday. Addressing reporters after the meeting, Banerjee said she talked to Modi about the proposal to change the name of her state, and other matters. “The prime minister said he would do something about it,” Banerjee said, according to NDTV.
The Trinamool Congress president said the demand to rename West Bengal as Bangla has been pending for long, and she was open to suggestions. She said people’s sentiments were attached to the name change. Banerjee also said she told Modi that the Centre was supposed to pay her state Rs 13.5 crore.
The chief minister said she requested Modi to attend the programme for world’s second-largest coal block Deocha Pachami in Birbhum district after Navratri. The project is worth Rs 12,000 crore.
Banerjee pointed out that it was the “constitutional obligation” of the state and the central government to work together. “We spoke of the economic progress in Bengal,” said the chief minister. “Bengal’s GDP is 12.8% – number one in India.”
The chief minister said she did not attend Modi’s oath-taking ceremony in May because of unwanted circumstances though she had initially planned to do so.
In July 2018, the state Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution to change the name of the state to “Bangla” in Bengali, Hindi and Marathi. The Mamata Banerjee government forwarded the proposal to the Centre, but it has not been accepted yet.
On July 3, Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to pass an amendment on the matter in the Budget session of Parliament. However, the Centre told the Rajya Sabha a few weeks later that there was no proposal to amend Constitution to change West Bengal’s name.
The last time the name of a state was changed was in 2011, when Orissa became Odisha. Bombay was renamed Mumbai in 1995, Madras was renamed Chennai in 1996 and Calcutta became Kolkata in 2001.
Mamata Banerjee and Narendra Modi had attacked each other consistently during the Lok Sabha election campaign earlier this year. In one rally, Banerjee said she did not want to share the dais with Modi, whom she called “expiry PM”. She also said Modi should get a “tight slap of democracy”.
Meanwhile, West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh said he was happy to see Mamat Banerjee’s “good sense” prevail, but added that it was too late. “Her attempts to save herself and her party from CBI will not yield any results,” said Ghosh, according to PTI. “The law will take its own course and all those who have looted public money or have aided the culprits will have to go behind the bars.”
The request for the meeting came at a time the Central Bureau of Investigation is looking into former Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar’s involvement in the Saradha scam. Kumar is accused of tampering with crucial evidence in the case. He had headed the Special Investigation Team set up by Banerjee to investigate the scam before the Supreme Court handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation in 2014.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s national General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya also said it was a “last ditch” attempt to save Kumar, Hindustan Times reported. “Earlier she used to abuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi on each and every issue,” Vijayvargiya said. “She had said that she does not feel the need to respect Modiji as the prime minister. She didn’t attend the swearing-in ceremony, NITI Aayog meeting and the meeting of the chief ministers. Then, why now?”
Vijayvargiya said Banerjee was worried because she knew that Kumar’s arrest would ensure that “half of her state Cabinet end up in jail”.
BJP leader Mukul Roy said the meeting was a victory for the party.
Not only the BJP, leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sujan Chakraborty also questioned the timing of the meeting.
“She did not attend earlier meetings called by the Centre,” said Chowdhury. “So what was the urgency that she has to meet the prime minister and now wants to meet Amit Shah all of a sudden ?So it is anybody’s guess what actually is her demand.”
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