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CM Banerjee meets PM for 15 mins over Cyclone, then skips larger meet

By Priyanka Verma 
Updated Date

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a 15-minute meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Kalaikunda Air Base in Bengal’s West Midnapore district Friday.

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The two were to hold a review meeting to assess damage from Cyclone Yaas – which hit Bengal and Odisha this week – but Ms Banerjee skipped that. She left after giving PM Modi a damage report.

An official said the prime minister, governor Jagdeep Dhankad and union ministers patiently waited for half an hour for West Bengal representatives to turn up. “Suddenly Mamata Banerjee, in her haughtiness, stormed in and handed over a bunch of papers on the cyclone impact to the PM and said that she is leaving as she has other visits lined up,” sources claimes.

However, Mamata claimed that didn’t know she had meeting in Digha and left with the Prime Minister’s permission after submitting the damage report on Cyclone Yaas.

“PM had called meeting. We didn’t know I had meeting in Digha. I went to Kalaikunda and gave PM the report, asking for Rs 20,000cr- Rs 10,000cr each for Digha Development and Sundarban Development. I told him the state’s officials wanted to meet me. I took his permission and left,” Mamata said.

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“After having review meetings in Hingalganj and Sagar, I met the PM in Kalaikunda and apprised him regarding the post-cyclone situation in Bengal. The disaster report has been handed over for his perusal. I’ve proceeded now to review the relief & restoration work at Digha,” she said on Twitter.

That 15-minute meeting was their first since the April-May Assembly election that Ms Banerjee’s Trinamool won, despite the opposition mounting a crass campaign fueled, in part, by the resignation of a large number of MPs, MLAs and ministers from the ruling party.

The last time they were face-to-face was on January 23 – at Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. On that evening a furious Mamata Banerjee walked off-stage in a huff after her speech was interrupted with chants of “Jai Shri Ram”.

Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who has a running feud with Ms Banerjee, and Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari, her trusted aide before he joined the BJP, were at the meet she skipped.

Mr Dhankhar later took a swipe at Ms Banerjee over her skipping the meeting, saying it was “not in sync with constitutionalism or rule of law”.

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“It would have served interests of state and its people for CM and officials to attend review meet by PM. Confrontational stance ill serves interests of State or democracy. Non-participation by CM and officials not in sync with constitutionalism or rule of law,” he tweeted.

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The Prime Minister also took aerial surveys of regions affected by Yaas, which caused havoc across South and North 24 Paraganas, Digha, East Medinipur and Nandigram districts of the state.

He later announced ₹ 1,000 crore for relief measures. ₹ 500 crore is to be given immediately to Odisha, with equal sums for Bengal and Jharkhand. These will be released on the basis of damage.

He also announced ₹ 2 lakh each for the families of each of those who died in cyclone-related incidents. A sum of ₹ 50,000 would be paid to those injured in such incidents.

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Last week he announced ₹ 1,000 crore for Gujarat, after the state was hit by Cyclone Tauktae.

Ms Banerjee said she would undertake her own surveys on Saturday.

She has pegged the damage to her state at ₹ 15,000 crore – including the destruction of three lakh houses and 134 embankments – and has already announced a rescue package of ₹ 1,000 crore.

The Prime Minister has already met Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik; the two met in Bhubaneswar this morning, after which he conducted an aerial survey in that state.

Mr Patnaik thanked the Prime Minister for visiting the state and said he had informed him of the “large-scale devastation” caused by Cyclone Yaas.

PM Modi issued a statement after his meeting with Mr Patnaik, in which he noted the effective role of central and states agencies in responding to the challenge posed by Yaas.

He advised all agencies to ensure the restoration of normal life in the affected areas as soon as possible and asked that relief material is disbursed to all persons affected by the cyclone.

Yaas made landfall on the north Odisha coast – about 20 km south of Balasore – on Wednesday with 130-140 km per hour winds and 150 km per hour gusts.

At least three people died as Yaas hit Odisha. A fourth person died in Bengal’s Digha town. Over 100 NDRF teams have been deployed across both states to help in rescue and relief efforts.

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