Political slugfest erupts over cyclone Fani relief and rescue
Analysts surmised that Modi was reaching out to Patnaik whose Biju Janata Dal was once an ally of his Bharatiya Janata Party, and whose support he may need if his party doesn’t cross the halfway mark in the Lo Sabha on its own.Updated: May 07, 2019, 00:06 IST
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a pat on the back for Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and got into a spat with West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, both over cyclone Fani.
Analysts surmised that Modi was reaching out to Patnaik, whose Biju Janata Dal (BJD) was once an ally of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and whose support he may need if his party doesn’t cross the halfway mark in the Lok Sabha on its own.
“Naveen babu has done good planning. The central government will support and carry forward the initiatives,” Modi told reporters.
But with polling still on in West Bengal, where seven seats went to polls Monday and another 17 seats will go to polls over the next two phases, the PM and Banerjee exchanged harsh words.
He called her “Speedbreaker Didi” and she returned the favour by calling him “Expiry PM” — terms both have used in the past.
At a rally in Bengal, Modi said he tried to reach out to Banerjee to discuss the impact of Fani on her state, but she wasn’t available. “Speedbreaker Didi has played politics even on Cyclone Fani. I tried to get in touch but her arrogance is such that she refused to talk to me,” the PM said. He said he tried twice to reach out to the West Bengal CM.
Banerjee said she was busy. “I don’t want to share dais with Expiry PM . I don’t consider you our Prime Minister. When the next PM comes, I will tell him,” she said in a rally.
She clarified that she was monitoring the Fani impact from Kharagpur and could not take Modi’s call . “We don’t need you,” she added, claiming that she had gone to visit Modi when West Bengal was hit by floods in 2015 and 2017, but that no central assistance was forthcoming then.
Their war of words came on the day reports of violence marred voting in seven constituencies in West Bengal, where clashes, allegations of booth capturing, and explosions, have cast a shadow on the polling process throughout this summer’s general elections.
After Monday’s voting, the BJP filed a complaint with the Election Commission (EC) against the Trinamool Congress, alleging rigging of polling booths and widespread violence. Nine people have died in the state in political violence since election dates were announced on March 10, and polling days in all five phases so far have been turbulent. West Bengal’s chief electoral officer (CEO) Aariz Aftab, however, said, “Barring some stray incidents, polling was overall peaceful.”
Modi was unsparing in his attack on Banerjee. “I must congratulate the state government, the authorities and those involved in evacuations. The work done is commendable. There has been a good coordination between the Centre and the state,” he said in Odisha.
In Bengal, he said Banerjee did not turn up on Monday at a meeting he wanted to hold with officials to take stock of the situation. The PM also alleged that people saying “Jai Shri Ram” are sent to jail in West Bengal, referring to an incident in West Midnapore district last Saturday. A group shouted the slogan when Banerjee’s convoy was passing by, prompting her to confront the men, who ran away.
A row broke out on Saturday, a day after Fani made landfall in Odisha, with Trinamool Congress leaders objecting to Modi’s phone call to West Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, who was asked to prepare a report on the situation. The ruling party alleged that the West Bengal government was bypassed in the process, even though Modi spoke to Odisha CM Patnaik. Media reports, attributed to sources, later said the Prime Minister’s Office made two attempts to reach out to Banerjee over phone, but her office informed him that she was on a tour and that the calls would be returned.