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Mamata leaves office after 36 hours, says exploring legal options against Centre

"We have never seen such arrogance (by Centre). If Army is not withdrawn we will explore legal options."

Written by Aniruddha Ghosal | New Delhi |
Updated: December 2, 2016 10:34:26 pm
Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a media conference on Army deployment at various places in the state, at Nabanna in Howrah near Kolkata on Friday. PTI Photo (PTI12_2_2016_000244B) Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a media conference on Army deployment at various places in the state, at Nabanna in Howrah near Kolkata on Friday. (Source: PTI)

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday left the state secretariat building after nearly 36 hours straight amid a row over the presence of Army units positioned at toll plazas across Bengal. Before leaving, Banerjee, once again resumed her attack on the Centre, accusing them of “arrogance” and “using” the army “for political vendetta”, adding that the party was mulling legal options.

Earlier in the day, the army had rebutted Banerjee’s allegations that personnel were deployed at toll plazas, without prior intimation to the state government and were collecting money, stating that the exercise had been carried out with the coordination of Kolkata Police. GOC Bengal area (officiating) Maj Gen Sunil Yadav said that the coordination had been done with “local police authorities” and the exercise had been earlier “planned for November 27 to November 28”, dates of which were changed to “November 30 to December 2”, as per request of Kolkata Police.

ALSO READ: Army deployment at toll plazas in WB: Govt trying to create ‘fear psychosis’, says TMC

Prior to Mamata Banerjee’s press conference, party general secretery Partha Chatterjee had countered the army’s claims. He said, “The manner in which Modi government is using the Army for politics has never happened before. We have the highest respect for the Army, but the situation is very unfortunate. We were not informed. We had not given permission to Army.”

In the midst of all this, the Kolkata police has countered the documents released by the army with letters of their own. According to a letter dated Novermber 25, released by Kolkata, additional commissioner of police Supratim Sarkar had responded to the army request, writing to Administrative Commandant Colonel Surinder Mahani citing the heavy traffic flow on the highway, the toll plaza being the entry and exit points to other districts and states and the proximity to Nabanna, the West Bengal secretariat and therefore “a high security zone’’ as reasons for the Army to shift its exercise elsewhere. Colonel Mahani said that he had responded to the letter saying that the exercise at this point was imperative, a letter that Sarkar claims not to have received.

ALSO READ: Army refutes Mamata’s claim, says carrying out routine annual exercise

Banerjee, meanwhile, supplemented her attack on the Centre’s arrogance with the reiteration of the “misfortunes” faced by “common people” due to demonetisation. “There are 287 tea gardens in Bengal. Of these 119 have not received wages since October 29. This is affecting 2.5 lakh tea workers. The Modi government doesn’t care about these people,” she said.

She further alleged that the supply of Rs 500 notes was being monitored by the BJP, as per their own political interest. “There is no supply of Rs 500 notes in West Bengal. The ATMs are yet to be recalibrated. It is only in BJP states, where Rs 500 notes are being provided. In UP, for instance, they are trying to create anger against the government by not supplying these notes. In Bihar, they are providing the Rs 500 notes near Patna, but not in villages. Here, there are barely any Rs 500 notes.”

Earlier in the day, TMC MLAs arrived at Rajbhawan in Kolkata, protesting the “unprecedented” deployment with army presence across the state. Chatterjee added, “We will not tolerate this complete disregard for democracy by the Centre.”

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