Kolkata, Dec 2: One day after locking up herself in her office, citing the alleged presence of Indian Army trucks outside, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee vowed to stay put at the secretariat even after the withdrawal of soldiers from the area of a toll gate early on Friday.
The Minister blamed the central government of pressing the army men along a highway toll plaza, which is at the second Hooghly Bridge and about 500 m from the secretariat.
Earlier, she accused the union government for keeping the state government “in the dark”.
“I won’t leave unless the army is withdrawn from near the secretariat. I’ll keep vigil to protect democracy, to protect my democratically elected government,” Banerjee told a hurriedly convened late night media meet on Thursday at the secretariat Nabanna in neighbouring Howrah district.
Soon after midnight, the Eastern Command announced that the army has been asked to withdraw from the toll plaza near Nabanna as it had already collected the data which was needed.
After 2 a.m., Banerjee — holding her third round of media conference since the evening — declared that 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“The army has withdrawn from the second Hooghly Bridge after 2 am.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 per cent of the areas,” she said.
“I’ll remain awake all night to keep vigil. I will spend the night at Nabanna,” she said.
The riveting drama was seen on Thursday evening, when Banerjee alleged that the army has been deployed at the Dankuni and Palit toll plazas on National Highway 2 (connecting Delhi and Kolkata) without knowledge of the state government.
She informed that the Chief Secretary was writing to the central government and she would meet President Pranab Mukherjee seeking clarification on the issue.
“This is unacceptable. Federal structure has been disrupted and democracy twisted. Has Emergency been declared?” she asked.
However, the Defence Ministry stated that the army was conducting a routine exercise with full knowledge of and co-ordination with West Bengal police.
“The army conducts the annual exercise throughout the country with the aim of getting statistical data about the load carriers that could be made available to the army in case of a contingency,” said a Defence ministry spokesman.
Around 10 p.m., Banerjee held the second round of media conference, dismissing the spokesman’s clarification and declaring she would camp at the secretariat.
“The National Highway Authority of India has all this data. They have records of the number of cars plying in each state, and through each highway.”
Absolutely wrong and misleading facts by @easterncomd We have great respect for you, but please please don’t mislead the people
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) December 1, 2016
Banerjee, also supremo of the ruling Trinamool Congress, expressed that she has collected information from Maharashtra, Kerala, Odisha and Chhattisgarh and nowhere such a thing was been done.
“Why is it been done in Bengal? Is it because I am speaking for the people?” she asked, claiming the army has been pressed in Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Darjeeling, North 24Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Kolkata, Murshidabad and Burdwan districts.