FOR THE first time since she had upped the ante on demonetisation, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to seek funds for West Bengal. The meeting also raised hopes for the Teesta water sharing treaty with Bangladesh, which is hanging fire for the five years because of Mamata’s opposition to the pact. Mamata, however, denied that it the matter figured in her talks with the PM.
“We discussed the debt situation of the state and release of funds due to Bengal under various projects and schemes. Around Rs 10,459 crore is pending with the Centre… I apprised the Prime Minister about this and the problems arising out of it. I requested him to ensure that the funds are released. He said he will try to release the funds,” Mamata told mediapersons.
She, however, refused to answer any questions on Teesta. “I have given them my proposal (share water of Torsa instead), let them examine it and take a call,” she said.
Mamata also spent some time in the Parliament, meeting senior BJP leader L K Advani, fuelling speculation about the impending presidential polls. She went on to meet senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel to firm up Opposition’s position on electronic voting machines (EVMs). Opposition parties are slated to meet President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday to apprise him of their position on the issue.
Speaking to journalists at the Central Hall in Parliament, Mamata, while acknowledging the need for a grand alliance, said EVMs may be the first step towards such issue-based collaboration. “I am not leading (such an alliance) but we should all come together. May be EVM is the first step,” she said.
She declined that her meeting with Advani had anything to do with the presidential elections. “It was a courtesy call, I have very good relations with him. Even when Kamala ji (Advani) was alive, I used to call on them. I am too small a person to decide on presidential polls. Let them come up with a name,” she said.
In an interview to a Bangla television channel some time ago, Mamata had said she is not averse to Advani’s candidature. Advani, incidentally, is also the chairman of the Ethics Committee that is examining the matter of the Narada sting tapes, in which several Trinamool Congress MPs were filmed accepting cash. While the committee is yet to take the matter up, TMC is under pressure to hand over the matter to CBI.
Meanwhile, in a closed-door meeting with party MPs, Mamata is learnt to have expressed her unhappiness with their work. There is a need to do our work more humbly,” she reportedly told the MPs. Rajya Sabha member Dola Sen, who had recently kicked up a ruckus over seats allotted to her in a Kolkata-bound flight, was also present in the meeting.
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