A day after she signed 21 MoUs with the UK in the fields of industry, health, education and urban development, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday told a private news channel that Duke of York Prince Andrew — whom she met at a reception in London — has appreciated her and Bengal. “We spoke about our Govt’s commitment to empower the girl child, Kanyashree scheme, initiatives for the week, vulnerable sections of society,” she tweeted and added that Prince Andrew has presented her with a handbag.
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’ Brien, who is also a part of Mamata’s delegation, tweeted the photograph of an advertisement on Bengal published in a leading business newspaper of London. The advertisement, while speaking about the “conducive” business conditions of Bengal, invites investment.
Back home, however, Opposition parties came down heavily on Mamata’s trip. “If they are praising Bengal and the CM, it is good, but what needs to be seen is how much will the people of Bengal benefit from the trip. She intends to convert Kolkata into London and has thus, gone to London. But I think it will be easier to turn Kolkata into Venice given the monsoon rains that have submerged the city,” said CPM leader Rabin Deb.
State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury, while claiming that Mamata’s trip was planned in a wrong manner, said it was a pleasure trip near river Thames in London. “She was supposed to attend a meeting at a business school, which was later found to be closed on that particular day. Whoever had planned her itinerary had done so in a faulty manner,” he added.
“Besides, I want to ask, do industrialists who are accompanying her believe that Bengal is the ideal investment destination? Because if that is so, why will people like Sanjiv Goenka invest in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Kochi,” Chowdhury claimed.
“Mamata has managed to send the British Prime Minister out of the country… He has left in order to avoid meeting the CM,” he added.
When contacted, BJP national secretary and Bengal co-observer Siddharth Nath Singh said Mamata has received a consolation prize. “The people of Bengal did not appreciate her efforts, so, she must be happy with the consolation prize from Prince Andrew,” he said.
Referring to the bag which Prince Andrew had given to Mamata, he quipped: “Now, she can go around collecting more money from the poor people of the state.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron is currently out of the country in connection with the economic crisis in Greece. Mamata’s visit to London was finalised in response to an invitation by Cameron sometime ago.
On Monday, Cameron had written to Mamata, apologising for his absence. “I fondly recall our meeting in Kolkata in November 2013 when we discussed the positive UK-West Bengal bilateral cooperation that exists and the wealth of trade and investment opportunities this offers. I am delighted that you will be visiting London to see these opportunities first hand. I am sorry that due to my travel plans I will not be in London to see you in person. I wish you a successful and rewarding visit which will help forge the close ties between UK and Bengal,” reads an excerpt from the letter uploaded on the official Trinamool website.