Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today declared that she has not returned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s calls to discuss Cyclone Fani, as she “does not want to share dais with expiry-PM”. Earlier today, PM Modi had accused Ms Banerjee of “playing politics” over cyclone relief, triggering a political storm over the superstorm that left a trail of devastation across Odisha and parts of Bengal over the weekend.
At a rally in Bengal’s Tamluk today, PM Modi said he had tried to dial the Chief Minister before the cyclone hit as he felt “worried” about the people of Bengal.
“I tried to talk to Mamata Didi before the cyclone hit, but such was her arrogance that she refused to talk to me,” said the Prime Minister, who held an aerial survey of the affected areas in Odisha and met its chief minister, Naveen Patnaik this morning.
He underscored the point in a Hindi tweet later. “I waited, expecting her to call me back. But she did not. Still, I called her again. I was worried about the people of Bengal, and wanted to speak to Mamata Didi. But Didi did not speak to me the second time either,” it read.
Speaking at a rally from Bengal’s Bishnupur, Mamata Banerjee said she could not take the call as she was in Kharagpur, a town near Kolkata, to monitor the ground situation, while the Prime Minister was out campaigning.
But to clarify her stance, she added, “I don’t want to share dais with expiry-PM as elections are on” – “expiry PM” being the term she coined to underscore her claim that the Prime Minister’s term in office has expired and he won’t come back in power.
Later, at a rally in Jhargram, she said PM Modi was supposed to address a rally in the neighbourhood earlier today.
“Instead, he lands at Kalaikunda and wants to hold a meeting on cyclone damage. But why should we attend? He is coming for campaigning and he wants to hold an official meeting, and then say that he had called but the state did not respond. Please be informed that during election, I will not share any platform with him. I do not consider him prime minister now. When the new prime minister comes, we will speak with that person,” she added.
The controversy was triggered by media reports that Ms Banerjee was upset that the Prime Minister had called Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi and not her to get feedback on the state’s preparedness ahead of the cyclone.