Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Kolkata on Saturday evening to inaugurate the 'Jan Suraksha' insurance scheme for the poor, but the tour will be noted more for his increasing cordiality with chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
This is Modi's first visit to West Bengal after becoming the Prime Minister and Mamata has shown signs she is keen to repair the state’s relations with his government.
The chief minister will hold a 30-minute one-on-one meeting with Modi and travel on board the PM’s chopper, clearly showing that both leaders are getting closer like never before.
In public though, the chief minister has kept up her feisty image. “I am neither going close to Modi nor am I far from him,” Mamata said a day ahead of the visit.
She said her decision to meet the PM is because of constitutional obligations and for the benefits it would bring to West Bengal.
Opposition leaders and political experts however see more to it than healthy state-Centre relations.
“I would say a latent political bargaining is going on. The closeness between Mamata Banerjee and Narendra Modi we see now is a means to an end,” said political scientist Amal Mukhopadhyay.
This is a far cry from her position more than a year ago during the election campaign when Mamata threatened to put Modi behind bars if he visited the state.
With state elections due next year, both parties would like to keep the show of intense rivalry going. "It is a fact that Assembly polls are drawing close and the BJP cannot be seen partying with the Trinamool,” said a BJP leader who did not wish to be named.
Jan Suraksha insurance scheme
The 'Jan Suraksha' insurance scheme to be launched by the PM targets the poor and unorganised sector who are neither covered by any form of insurance nor get pension.
Under the accident insurance scheme, any person within the age bracket of 18 to 70 years would be able to join the scheme for which the annual premium amount would be Rs 12 giving a coverage of Rs two lakh
"After the huge success of the Jan Dhan scheme under which 15 crore bank accounts were opened, the government will unveil three social security schemes under the Jan Suraksha programme," said Hasmukh Adhia, financial services secretary with the finance ministry.
Modi is also expected to announce two other insurance schemes -- Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (accident insurance) and Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana (life insurance), while the pension scheme has been named after former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee as Atal Pension Yojana.