Mamata furious after army deployment at Bengal toll plazas, BJP hits back | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Mamata furious after army deployment at Bengal toll plazas, BJP hits back

The presence of the army on a crucial Kolkata bridge sparked a political fight on Friday with the Trinamool Congress alleging the Centre was arm-twisting the state and the BJP blaming chief minister Mamata Banerjee of politicising a regular military action.

india Updated: Dec 02, 2016 12:48 IST
Dhrubo Jyoti
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a press conference in Kolkata on Thursday.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a press conference in Kolkata on Thursday. (PTI)

The presence of the army on a crucial Kolkata bridge sparked a political fight on Friday with the Trinamool Congress alleging the Centre was arm-twisting the state and the BJP blaming chief minister Mamata Banerjee of politicising a regular military action.

The war of words followed a night of drama after Banerjee refused to step out of the state secretariat Nabanna to protest against the “sudden deployment” of the army in the area.

A livid Mamata took to Twitter to express her disgust, saying, “Very unfortunate. Army stationed in front of Nabanno, the Bengal state secretariat in a high security zone, in spite of police objection. I am waiting here at the secretariat and watching to guard our democracy.”

Read | Trinamool MP says Mamata Banerjee’s photo should be kept in every house

But the BJP rubbished her claim, saying she had “lost her mental balance” after losing money following the central government’s shock recall of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes three weeks ago.

“It’s so ridiculous that the CM does not know about the mock drill of the army, which takes place every three to four years… It is quite strange that the CM is not aware about it even as the district magistrate and state administration has proper knowledge about the same,” BJP leader Rahul Sinha told ANI.

The Trinamool Congress says the state government’s permission wasn’t sought before deploying the army in 10 districts of West Bengal.

The party says this is to intimidate Banerjee, who has been the face of protests against the Centre’s move to scrap high-value currency – a decision which has seen millions of people line up outside banks and ATMs with the poor and small traders the hardest hit.

The Trinamool had also stalled Parliament on Wednesday after a flight carrying Banerjee allegedly was made to hover over Kolkata airport with low fuel.

What happened in Bengal
  • On Thursday, Army is deployed at two toll plazas, one near Nabanna, the West Bengal secretariat
  • Mamata Banerjee alleges the state government was not informed about the deployment, refuses to leave Nabanna
  • Army says it’s a routine exercise in all north-eastern states, Kolkata Police objects in writing
  • On Friday, BJP hits back, says “it’s ridiculous that the CM does not know about the mock drill of the army, which takes place every three to four years…”
  • Banerjee plans to apprise President Pranab Mukherjee of the matter

Late Thursday evening, Banerjee alleged the army was deployed at the behest of the Centre at two toll plazas, Palsit and Dankuni, on NH 2 without informing the state government.

The Trinamool says this move clearly violates the nation’s federal structure.

“Is the army authorised to collect funds from toll plazas? The Eastern command said this is being coordinated, police knows...this is untrue,” Trinamool parliamentarian Derek O’Brien was quoted as saying by ANI.

According to reports, at least six vehicles of military police were spotted at the toll plaza Vidyasagar Setu, a key bridge that connects Kolkata to Howrah.

“The state was not informed about this development. In a federal structure, the functions of Centre and state are clearly divided. But this act clearly violates our jurisdiction,” she said.

Banerjee has said she would approach President Pranab Mukherjee and apprise him of the matter.

At 2 am on Friday, Banerjee -- holding her third round of media conference since the evening -- reiterated she would spend the night at Nabanna, fearing the army may be back.

“The army has withdrawn from the second Hooghly bridge after 2 am. They will definitely come back. After Nabanna, they have entered various districts. The army has been deployed in 80% of the areas,” she said.

“I’ll remain awake all night to keep vigil. I will spend the night at Nabanna,” she said.

“Why is it been done in Bengal? Is it because I am speaking for the people?” she asked, claiming the army has been positioned in Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Darjeeling, North 24-Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Kolkata, Murshidabad and Burdwan districts.

But the army said the routine exercise was being carried out in all states of the eastern region.

“Routine exercise in all NE states. In Assam @ 18 places, Arunanchal@13, WB@19, Manipur@6, Nagaland@5, Meghalaya@5, Tripura & Mizoram,” the Eastern Command tweeted.

But the Kolkata police said they had given their objection in writing.

“Army exercise at Toll Plaza was objected to in writing by Kolkata Police, citing security reasons & traffic inconvenience,” the Kolkata police claimed on its twitter handle.

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