KOLKATA: Between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s backslapping of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik — for excellent planning to mitigate the disaster unleashed by Cyclone Fani — and his scorn for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, there were ample indications of a possible post-poll realignment if push comes to shove for the ruling NDA.
While Naveen joined Modi’s aerial survey in Odisha on Monday, Mamata refused to send her bureaucrats to a post-cyclone review meeting the PM intended to convene in West Bengal during his visit later in the day. She also did not take Modi’s calls a day before Fani made landfall in Odisha.
As far as optics go, sharing space with Modi wouldn’t have mattered to Naveen since polling is already over in Odisha. The situation is different for Mamata as West Bengal has two more phases of polls to go.
Modi shared his frustration while addressing a campaign rally in West Bengal’s Tamluk: “I called Didi twice before the cyclone arrived. I waited for her call but she didn’t get back to me. Didi is so arrogant that she did not speak to me. She is playing cheap politics.’’
Mamata explained it off at a rally in Jhargram district: “Whenever required, I go to interior areas to assess damages during natural calamities. When he (Modi) had called earlier, I was not in Kolkata. I was in Kharagpur and could not speak to him.”
At another rally in Bankura district, Mamata tore into Modi for seeking the presence of bureaucrats for the review meeting. “The officers function under the state government, not under him. How could he ask my officers to attend the meeting without informing me?’’
Mamata said, “Modi wrote from Delhi yesterday and landed at Kalaikunda airbase today. He wanted to hold a meeting on cyclone damage. Why should we attend? He is coming for campaigning and he wants to hold an official meeting. During the elections, I will not share any platform with him. I do not consider him prime minister now.”