TMC’s sit-in outside Raj Bhavan here for the third consecutive day on Saturday demanding the clearance of the dues to West Bengal under MGNREGA kept Bengal’s political scenario simmering through the day.
Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee during the day accused each other of spreading falsehoods at the meeting between the TMC delegates and the central minister in Delhi earlier this week.
Jyoti asserted that the Centre has consistently disbursed MGNREGA dues of West Bengal over nine years and highlighted discrepancies in the utilisation of these funds in certain districts of the state. Expressing her readiness for discussions with TMC, she refuted claims of refusing to meet a TMC delegation in the national capital and accused the ruling party in Bengal of engaging in “political theatrics”.
Her remarks drew a sharp retort from the TMC MP, who slammed the union minister for allegedly spreading falsehoods about a meeting with the party’s delegation in New Delhi and asserted that the TMC is prepared to meet her at the Raj Bhavan to discuss the MGNREGA issue.
Meanwhile, a three-member Trinamool Congress delegation met Governor C V Ananda Bose in Darjeeling on Saturday and urged the clearance of the state’s outstanding financial dues under the 100 days work scheme from the Centre.
They also requested the governor to meet the protesters who are on the indefinite sit-in near the Raj Bhavan under the leadership of TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee since Thursday.
After the closed-door meeting with the TMC delegation, a Raj Bhavan official announced that Bose would take up the matter of MGNREGA dues with the Centre.
Jyoti, who arrived in the city to attend a press conference at the state BJP office, explained that she had wanted to meet the TMC delegation in Delhi but had to wait for nearly two-and-a-half hours. She claimed that the TMC kept changing the number of members in their delegation and accused it of engaging in “political theatrics” rather than in genuine discussion.
Recounting the events of October 3 when the TMC delegation was to meet her in Delhi, she said the party initially proposed a delegation of five members, which later expanded to ten members.
“I agreed to this request too and instructed my office colleagues to make the necessary arrangements. However, at the last minute, the TMC insisted that I meet with the common people who were accompanying them,” she said.
She said that there were complaints of irregularities in the distribution of MGNREGA job cards and the Union Rural Development Ministry had sent several letters to the West Bengal government since 2019.
“But the state government did not take any action”.
The union minister challenged the TMC government to take the matter to court if they believed that the Centre was illegally withholding funds under the scheme. At the same time, she said that it might not pursue legal action due to “concerns about its corruption and the potential for a CBI probe”.
Jyoti expressed her willingness to engage in talks with the TMC delegation at any time but questioned the sincerity of the West Bengal ruling party on the issue. She offered to meet with them while she was in Kolkata.
Banerjee in response suggested that she should come to Raj Bhavan if she wanted to engage in discussions with TMC. “We are open to talks. If she is interested she can come to the Raj Bhavan and we will discuss all the issues. However, we won’t go to the BJP party office to meet her,” Banerjee said.
Criticising the union minister for suggesting a meeting at the state BJP office, he described it as a display of a “zamindari” mindset.
Banerjee along with TMC MPs, MLAs, ministers and MGNREGA job card holders had held protests at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and headed to the rural development ministry at Krishi Bhawan to meet Jyoti. But they claimed that after waiting for about an hour and a half, the minister declined to meet them and limited their delegation to five members.
He claimed that during their attempted meeting in New Delhi, Jyoti not only made them wait for a long time but also instructed the police to remove them from Krishi Bhawan.
The TMC parliamentarian said that senior BJP leaders, including Giriraj Singh and Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, would be compelled to come to Kolkata to meet the TMC agitators in response to public discontent.
Meanwhile, TMC activists led by Banerjee vowed to continue their agitation until the governor meets them at the protest site.
In Darjeeling, senior TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee after the meeting with the governor said that Bose was convinced of the legitimacy of the state’s demands. “We shared our demands with the governor and suggested that he returns to Kolkata to meet Banerjee and the job-card holders who are protesting. He praised Abhishek Banerjee and called him an upcoming leader of the country”.
Kalyan Banerjee said that the governor expressed alignment with the state’s “legitimate demands” and committed to taking up the matter with the union government. “But the governor also said that if there is any political intervention in the matter, he can’t help”.
Reacting to the Darjeeling meeting, Abhishek Banerjee wondered what stopped the governor from coming down to Kolkata and meeting the protestors.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)