CHIEF MINISTER Mamata Banerjee, who is set to leave for the Vatican City on Friday to attend Mother Teresa’s canonisation ceremony on September 4, has declined an invitation to a dinner reception to be hosted by Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, most likely to be held in Rome the next evening.
Instead, Mamata will host a dinner for her own delegation accompanying her to the sainthood function at a private restaurant there, a source confirmed.
On Friday, Mamata had said she would not go to the Vatican City as part of the Indian government delegation for the canonisation ceremony, but as a guest of the Missionaries of Charity. According to the source, she had been invited to the function by Sister Prema, superior general of the Missionaries.
“Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata have been invited for the reception as Indian chief ministers attending the canonisation. But Mamata has decided to opt out,” the source said.
“The CM said she is not part of the government delegation but a guest of Missionaries of Charity. Why would she attend the dinner hosted by the government? Instead, she will be hosting a dinner for her own delegation at a private restaurant, possibly in Rome,” he added.
Mamata’s delegation includes TMC MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien. Singer Usha Uthup, who was associated with Mother Teresa for over four decades, is also accompanying Mamata and is likely to sing at the canonisation ceremony.
According to sources in the Trinamool, Mamata’s decision is aimed at maintaining her stance on preserving the federal structure of the state, and to woo Christians, who constitute an important part of the minority population in Bengal.
“The violence faced by those who have converted to Christianity at the hands of right-wing groups associated with the BJP has become an international issue… Mamata is very aware of this,” said a senior TMC leader.
The MEA declined to comment on the matter.