West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has confirmed that she did call the defected leader Suvendu Adhikari's political aide but asserted that it's not a crime. She also said those leaking the audio call and breaking the faith are the ones who should be blamed. "Yes, I had called up this BJP leader in Nandigram. I had got the feedback that someone wants to talk to me. So I talked to him after getting his number. I told him to keep well, to take care of his health. So what is my crime?" Banerjee said during her rally in Nandigram on Tuesday, reported NDTV.
She said the person was after all a voter of the Nandigram constituency and she was seeking his help. "There is no harm in that, it is not a crime," the TMC chief said, adding that if someone leaks a conversation, it's definitely a crime. The firebrand leader asserted that action could be taken against the man who leaked the conversation.
In a huge controversy that erupted last week on Saturday, the BJP released an audio clip where Banerjee was purportedly heard cajoling a BJP leader, Pralay Pal, from Nandigram to rejoin the TMC and help her win the seat. Banerjee is pitted against her former protege and now the BJP candidate Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram, the springboard that propelled her to power in 2011, dislodging the Left Front from power after a 34-year unbroken rule.
A BJP delegation, led by party general secretary and Bengal minder Kailash Vijayvargiya, met the state's chief electoral officer and handed over the tape, claiming Banerjee was using her official position to influence the outcome of the bitterly contested assembly poll.
The ruling TMC questioned the genuineness of the audiotape but asserted that since Pralay Pal was a former TMC leader who switched over to the BJP, there was nothing wrong with Banerjee trying to woo him back.
Pal, who pledged his allegiance to the Adhikari family, whose two members are still TMC Lok Sabha members, claimed Banerjee personally called him up and asked him to help her win the Nandigram seat. "You should help us win Nandigram. Look, I know you have some grievances, but that's due mostly to the Adhikaris who never allowed me to get into Nandigram or East Midnapore. I will take care of everything henceforth," Banerjee purportedly told Pal, who's a BJP official in East Midnapore. Pal, however, said he told her that he couldn't betray the Adhikaris as "they have stood by me through thick and thin."
With PTI inputs