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Mamata meeting PM, Shah leads to speculation if she has softened her stand

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: September 19, 2019  | 20:01 IST

New Delhi, Sep 19 (PTI) While West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has maintained that her meetings with the prime minister and home minister were not political, it has led to speculation that the once-ardent critic of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah is softening her stand. BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who is in-charge of the party's affairs in West Bengal, in a tweet in Hindi said, "'Ab aya oont pahar ke niche" meaning now she (Banerjee) has realised where she stands. In the same post, he tagged two photographs of Banerjee meeting Modi and Shah and wondered whether one can infer this (the Hindi saying) from her meetings. A couple of days ago, Vijayvargiya had said that Banerjee was meeting Modi as a "last-ditch bid" to save the city's former police chief Rajeev Kumar. Her Delhi visit comes at a time when the CBI has begun a manhunt for Kumar in the Saradha scam case. Kumar is believed to be close to Banerjee. Banerjee maintained that "meeting the prime minister and the home minister is a constitutional obligation. Besides we have international border issues with Bangladesh and Bhutan and state borders with Bihar and Jharkhand. We also have the sensitive 'chicken's neck' (corridor connecting northeastern states with the rest of the country). So meeting with the home minister is in that context necessary". On Wednesday, Banerjee met the prime minister for the first time after his re-election. She had given both Modi's swearing-in ceremony in May as well as the NITI Aayog meeting in June a miss. She last met Modi at the Visva Bharati University convocation at Shantiniketan in May 2018. "It was a government-to-government meeting, nothing political," Banerjee maintained on Thursday, refusing to take any political questions from reporters, but promising to be back after the Durga Puja and Navratras are over. On Wednesday, Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh had said it was good that Banerjee's good sense prevailed at last but termed her meeting with Modi as an "attempt to save herself and her party (TMC) from CBI". Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury also questioned the timing of the meeting. Besides Kumar, several TMC leaders have come under CBI's scanner in connection with a ponzi scam related to the Saradha group. The Saradha group of companies allegedly duped lakhs of people of Rs 2,500 crore, promising higher rates of return on their investments. On Thursday, besides Shah, she also met Congress leader Ahmed Patel and is scheduled to meet Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal later on Thursday. She also met nearly eight West Bengal cadre officers who are on central deputation here besides US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster, with whom she discussed investment opportunities in Bengal. Sources said that Banerjee could not meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi as the latter was busy with preparations for elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand to be held later this year. Banerjee will return to Bengal on Friday afternoon. PTI ASG ZMN

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