West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday admitted that she had called a former Trinamool Congress leader who has now joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, saying it was not a crime, PTI reported.
The audio clip of Banerjee’s conversation with Proloy Pal had created a controversy on March 27, as the BJP had claimed that she had sought his help to win the Nandigram election. The saffron party has accused Banerjee of trying to influence the Assembly elections.
“Yes I had called up this BJP leader in Nandigram,” Banerjee said. “I had got the feedback that someone wants to talk to me. So I talked to him after getting his number. I told him to keep well, to take care of his health. So what is my crime?”
The Trinamool Congress chief was speaking in Nandigram constituency, which will vote in the second phase of polling on April 1. In Nandigram, Banerjee is contesting against her aide-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari, who had defected to BJP in December.
The chief minister said action should be taken against the person who leaked the audio clip of the conversation as it breaks trust and faith between two people. “As a candidate of the constituency I can seek the help of any voter, I can call up anyone,” she added. “There is no harm in that, it is not a crime. But if someone makes the conversation viral that is a criminal offence.”
Banerjee said this was not the first time that she had reached out to people cutting across party lines. She added that she will continue to call up people in the same manner in future.
After the first phase of polling ended, the audio clip was leaked on social media. “You should help us win Nandigram,” Banerjee is heard telling Pal, according to PTI. “Look, I know you have some grievances, but that’s due mostly to the Adhikaris who never allowed me to come to either Nandigram or East Midnapore. I will take care of everything henceforth.”
However, in the clip, Pal purportedly responds that he cannot betray the Adhikaris who stood by him through thick and thin. After this, the BJP leader told the media that Banerjee had called him up and requested him to return to Trinamool Congress, but he had refused to do so.
A BJP delegation led by the General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargia had met the state’s chief electoral officer to bring up the matter. Senior Trinamool Congress leader Subrata Mukherjee had said at a press conference that there was nothing wrong with the chief minister speaking to a former party worker.