West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee does not seem inclined to accompany Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his forthcoming visit to Bangladesh, triggering a fresh round of efforts to get the Trinamool Congress chief on board for the crucial trip.
Modi had sounded out Banerjee on his forthcoming Bangladesh trip on June 6 and 7, and although she hasn’t yet formally conveyed her inability to travel with the Prime Minister, sources told HT that the chief minister had told her close aides that she “has done her job” by agreeing to the Land Boundary agreement and there was no need for her to accompany the Prime Minister.
“Unless it is a formal no, we cannot say it is a no,” said an official when asked about the West Bengal chief minister’s plans. But the Centre has pinned its hopes on Banerjee, whose cooperation is critical for sealing the crucial Teesta water-sharing pact.
In 2011, the West Bengal chief minister had refused to travel with then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Dhaka. The Centre is pulling out all the stops to get Banerjee to agree on the water-sharing pact, which includes giving special financial assistance for irrigation projects in the state.
Though the chief minister has responded positively so far on the Teesta pact, it would not be politically wise for her to associate with the agreement, as West Bengal goes to the polls in 2016 and water-sharing could be a major issue in North Bengal, where her Trinamool Congress doesn’t have a strong base.
For the NDA government, sealing the water pact means completing two vital bilateral issues the UPA couldn’t finish -- first, the enabling legislation for the land boundary agreement, which the Indian parliament approved in the last session and now the Teesta water pact.