Kolkata: Prime Minister Narendra Modi met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for about 20 minutes on January 11 after arriving in Kolkata for his two day-visit. The meeting at the Raj Bhavan came amid a bitter face-off between the PM Modi's BJP and Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that has triggered massive protests across India.
Mamata joined her party’s anti-citizenship law protests right after meeting PM Modi, where she conveyed her “opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens”. Mamata walked to the protest venue, less than 100 metres from Raj Bhavan, as she sought to pull off a fine balancing act between her roles as one of the most strident opponents of the new citizenship law and the CM of a state. “I have expressed our continued opposition to CAA/NRC and urged the PM to do a rethink on the issue,” she said, adding: “But it is also my constitutional obligation to meet the country’s PM and President when they come to Kolkata. My colleague, minister Firhad Hakim, received the PM at the airport. I have told the PM about the £2.8 billion that the Centre owes the state plus the £700 million we have spent on post (Cyclone) Bulbul rehabilitation.”
Mamata, aware of the ground reality where a misstep may have unintended consequences, has been insisting on “sarba dharma samanway” and using traditional prayer symbols like conch shells and kansar-ghanta (gong-and bell) in her anti-CAA-NRC campaign to deflect “BJP’s unfounded criticism” of her “vote-bank politics”. Banerjee also had to take guard against anti-CAA/NRC protesters’ apprehensions of her going “soft on the cause”. She went back to the Esplanade dharna site a second time in the evening and, after an intense face-off with non-Trinamool, anti-CAA/NRC protesters that lasted a few minutes, accused them of “trying to fish in troubled waters” and being “BJP stooges”. “I do not need any certificate about the sincerity of my cause from anyone,” she said.
PM Modi was received by Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, state municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh and other senior BJP leaders at the airport which saw protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act outside the gate.