Finance minister Arun Jaitley has allegedly accepted Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s invite to attend the upcoming third edition of the Bengal Global Business Summit, much to the surprise of the state government and chagrin of his party’s state unit. Mamata had sent Jaitley an invite for the event — which kicks off in Kolkata on January 20 — weeks before Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made the announcement of demonetisation. A lot has changed since then, with Mamata clashing with the BJP on several occasions while at the helm of the anti-demonetisation campaign. Sources said she hadn’t followed up on the invite.
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“The finance minister has confirmed that he will be coming for the summit. Honestly, no one in the government had expected him to. This shows how important the event is,” said a source. Jaitley had attended the first two editions of the summit as well.
The source added that the chief minister had “reached out to Arun Jaitley on his birthday in December”, maintaining that their personal relationship hadn’t suffered. While the BJP is yet to comment officially on the issue, a party leader in New Delhi maintained that Jaitley — who has to get the GST Bill passed by its April 2017 deadline — “is in favour of minimising the stand-off between the two parties”.
The state BJP, however, is not pleased. “Like 2016, the Centre is once again deflating our criticism of Trinamool Congress. Right now the situation is poised very critically. How can a minister of the government come for an event like this when it appears that the state police will arrest Babul Supriyo? It is a bizarre situation,” said a state committee leader.
Last year, a number of BJP leaders like Suresh Prabhu, Nitin Gadkari and Piyush Goyal, apart from Jaitley, were among the “major stars” who attended the summit. “As of now, it seems they will not be attending,” said another source. Last year’s summit had taken place in the middle of campaigning ahead of the Assembly elections in 2016 and a number of BJP leaders had criticised Jaitley for sharing the stage with Mamata.