With an eye to foster Mamata Banerjee’s support on the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and the Teesta Water Sharing Treaty with Bangladesh, Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde chose not to make harsh comments on deteriorating law and order in the state. In fact, he praised the Bengal chief minister for being ‘positive’ and ‘cooperative’.
In Kolkata last July, Shinde’s predecessor P Chindambaram had been less diplomatic. “Eighty-two people were killed in 455 cases of inter-party clashes in the last six months, which was a matter of concern,” Chidambaram had said, triggering a fierce verbal duel between the allies.
“I had talked to the chief minister on NCTC. She was positive. She said certain clauses need to be discussed. Many other chief ministers also believe that the state’s rights should not be encroached upon. We are trying to find a way to ensure it doesn’t become an overriding factor on the state,” Shinde told media persons after a hovercraft ride with Mamata Banerjee in the Sunderbans. This was followed by a meeting in Frazergunge, a fishing port on the Bay of Bengal, in South 24-Parganas.
Shine declined to comment on the law and order issue. Mamata Banerjee stood silently by his side by he spoke. Party leaders refused to speculate on what her silence may have meant.
The Union home minister mentioned that Mamata was cooperative on this and other issues, including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
“Whenever the country faces any difficulty, the chief minister is very cooperative,” Shinde added. Trinamool party sources told HT that the need to enlist the Bengal chief minister’s support in the NCTC and Teesta Water Sharing Treaty has forced the Centre to tone down its antiMamata rhetoric.
Against the backdrop of the serial blasts in Hyderabad that killed 17 people, Congress hopes to initiate NCTC as soon as possible.
However, the Congress unit in Bengal, determined to highlight the issue, submitted a memorandum detailing the deterioration of law and order situation in the state to Shinde.
“Law and order is a state subject and we just wanted the Union home minister to raise the issue with the chief minister. We have submitted a memorandum to him citing various instances,” said West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee president Pradip Bhattacharya in a tone distinctly more sober than in the last few months.
Foreign affairs minister Salman Khurshid is expected to follow Shinde to the city to talk to Mamata about the Teesta treaty shortly. From New Delhi’s point of view, the water sharing treaty with Bangladesh is vital for maintaining good relations with the neighbour.
Last May, Mamata led a host of chief minister, including Jayalalitha, Naveen Patnaik and Narendra Modi, in opposing NCTC during a meet at the capital. She demanded its withdrawal, stating that it went against the federal structure and spirit.