Putting the centre in a spot again, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is playing hardball on Bangladesh. It was evident last Wednesday during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to Teen Bigha Corridor in Cooch Behar, an event from which home minister P Chidambaram had to pull out at the last moment following a personal emergency, government sources said.
Banerjee was also asked to be present on the occasion. But, government officials failed to get her consent.
Chidambaram was to be present at Teen Bigha to receive Hasina, who was visiting Bangladeshi enclaves of Dahagram and Angarpota.
But, on the eve of the visit, the home minster had to rush to Chennai. "Chidambaram had gone to attend to his mother who had to undergo a hip surgery following a fall," said MEA sources. Chidambaram had sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's permission for the same. Later, the officials contacted Prime Minister-who was in South Africa to attend the three- nation IBSA summit -seeking his suggestion for a replacement.
Singh suggested senior cabinet minister and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad should be going to receive Hasina because of his "old association" with visiting the leader.
It was decided on September 20 that Hasina would go to Teen Bigha to visit two Bangladeshi villages located inside Indian territory. India had agreed to open the Teen Bigha corridor for Bangladeshis 24 hours a day during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's trip to Dhaka. Earlier, Bangladeshis could access this corridor only for 12 hours.
Government sources said they had contacted the West Bengal government to ensure Banerjee's presence.
Foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai also spoke to west Bengal chief secretary, Samar Ghosh. But nothing worked.
The Centre was told that "since the chief minister was tied up" with other function, she couldn't make it. Banerjee had raised concerns over the water sharing in Teesta river that prevented a pact during Singh's Bangladesh visit.