What is it with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that she throws a fit one day claiming she was not allowed to talk to power at the Centre, but when an opportunity arises a week later she ignores a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at her own turf? And why is the Centre acting like a crybaby demanding back a toy it had just gifted due to a perceived slight? How cruel is it to recall a chief secretary to Delhi just four days after he was given extension in service because of his expertise in managing the pandemic. Fingers would surely be pointed at the Modi government for the recall if Bengal’s Covid count does not go down rapidly in tandem with other states. This tit-for-tat is against the federal spirit and could add to the list of mis-steps by the Centre, as it blundered its way in managing the second wave of the pandemic.
As for Mamata, staying away from the meeting convened by Modi after his aerial assessment of the havoc wrought on Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand by Cyclone Yaas was no less shocking. Her anger was tied to the presence of loyalist-turned-foe Suvendu Adhikari, who defeated her in Nandigram and is now the leader of opposition in the Assembly. Whether she likes it or not, Suvendu’s is a constitutionally elected position. She needs to learn to do business with him. Her argument that Odisha’s leader of the opposition was not present at a similar meeting Modi had with her counterpart Naveen Patnaik was specious because he was invited but could not make it. Her no-show not only militates against basic decency and the federal spirit, the state also lost an opportunity to make its pitch for Central support. Claiming a day later that she is ready to fall at the feet of the prime minister if he does justice to Bengal is merely playing to the gallery. In contrast, Naveen showed how to gracefully treat his guest, telling Modi he wasn’t seeking emergency aid since the Centre’s finances were already strained.
This clash of elephantine egos will do no good. The Centre ought to rescind its order to recall the Bengal chief secretary forthwith