Kolkata: Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday accused the centre of jealousy after the Ministry of External Affairs refused permission for her to travel to Italy for an all-faith peace meeting on the ground that it was “not commensurate with the level of a chief minister”. The global peace conference in Italy is organised by the Community of Sant’Egidio – a Rome-based Catholic foundation.
The external affairs ministry formally informed the Bengal government of its decision on Friday, triggering a typical Mamata outburst in which she dared the Centre to “stop me”.
The CM questioned why she had been barred from going to events abroad “whenever I want to go but you all (BJP leadership) can travel as you please”.
“I am not eager to visit foreign countries, but this was about the respect of the nation. This government goes on talking about Hindu interests. But if it really has Hindu interests at heart, why deny the only Hindu woman representative from India permission (to go there)?” she added pointing out that all other invitees to the event were Christians and Muslims.
Notably, outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Pope Francis are among nearly 500 religious and political leaders invited to the two-day peace conference.
“There was a meeting on world peace in Rome, where I was invited. German Chancellor, Pope (Francis) are also supposed to attend. Italy had given special permission for me to attend… yet centre denied clearance, saying it wasn’t right for Chief Minister,” Ms Banerjee said Saturday.
“You will not be able to stop me. I am not eager to visit foreign countries… but this was about the respect of the nation. You (PM Modi) keep talking about Hindus… I am also a Hindu woman. Why did you not allow me? You are totally jealous,” she declared.
The Trinamool leader – who faces a critical by poll in Bengal’s Bhabhinpur on Thursday, which she must win to become an MLA and remain Chief Minister – also hit out at the ‘Talibani’ BJP.
“We have to protect our freedom. ‘Talibani’ BJP cannot run in India… Trinamool alone is enough to defeat BJP. ‘Khela’, (games) will start from Bhabanipur and will finish after we win in the entire nation,” she said at a public meeting.
Ahead of the Bhabinipur by poll Ms Banerjee has been relentless in her attacks on the BJP, which has fielded lawyer Priyanka Tibrewal from that seat. Last week she called the BJP a “jumla party” and said she would not let the centre “divide the country” and “make India like Taliban”.
The results of the Bhabinipur by poll are expected October 3.
A furious Ms Banerjee also questioned how Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been allowed to travel to the United States despite having received the Covaxin Covid-19 vaccine, which has not been recognised by either the American government or the World Health Organization (WHO).
As a result, Indians vaccinated with Covaxin are unable to travel abroad freely; they are required to self-isolate in accordance quarantine and testing rules in destination countries.