KOLKATA: Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi’s office sent out invites to all chief ministers to attend his swearing-in ceremony, but the icing on the cake was West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to accept it.
Mamata was the most vocal critic of Modi in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, with the campaign at times getting vitriolic and both sides indulging in name-calling.
So, it came as a surprise when she spoke of her obligation to attend the ceremony slated for Thursday at 7 pm at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
“I am happy to be invited. I never miss a constitutional ceremony,” she said in Kolkata.
Mamata’s soft response came on a day when two of her Trinamool legislators and over 50 corporators crossed over to the BJP, giving the prime enemy control over four Bengal municipalities in one go.
Her reaction was completely out of character as Mamata is not known to hold back anger and resentment.
While Mamata didn’t react to the defections, other Trinamool leaders attributed the defection to intimidation.
According to state food and supplies minister Jyotipriya Mullick, “Our MLAs and councillors were forced to join at gun-point though they were not drawn to the BJP’s ideology.”
And Bengal urban development minister Firhad Hakim said his party was not worried about the defections.
In Delhi, BJP leader Mukul Roy said: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said 40 Trinamool legislators would come over to our side. Today we are inducting three MLAs — two from Trinamool and one from CPM - in the first phase. In the next six phases — one each month — more legislators would join the BJP.”
He was alluding to the staggered seven-phase polling in Bengal.