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Mamata to skip party chiefs' meet on simultaneous polls; asks Centre to first prepare white paper

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: June 18, 2019  | 19:12 IST

(Eds: combining related stories) New Delhi/Kolkata, Jun 18 (PTI) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Tuesday declined an invitation to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with the chiefs of political parties on simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls among other subjects and asked the Centre to instead prepare a white paper on 'one nation, one election' for consultations. Banerje had skipped a NITI Aayog meeting last Saturday and also did not attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a second term on May 30. She had called the NITI Aayog meeting "fruitless". The TMC supremo's decision to stay away from Wednesday's meeting in Delhi comes against the backdrop of heightened tussle between the ruling party and the BJP in West Bengal after the saffron party made inroads into the eastern state. Modi has invited the heads of all the political parties that have at least one member either in the Lok Sabha or in the Rajya Sabha for a meeting on June 19 to discuss several issues, including the "one nation, one election" idea, celebration of 75 years of India's Independence in 2022 and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year. Reacting to Banerjee's decision, West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said she was yet to recover from her defeat in the parliamentary polls and was making excuses to avoid any meeting convened by the Centre or the saffron party. "All the political parties are attending it except the TMC. They shout the most about the federal structure but are busy destroying every aspect of a healthy democracy," he said in Kolkata. With 22 Lok Sabha members, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is the fourth-largest party in the Lok Sabha along with the YSR Congress, which also has 22 members in the lower house. In a letter to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi, Banerjee said the matter of 'one country, one election' required consultations with experts. "A proper response on such a sensitive and serious subject like 'one country, one election' in such a short time would not do justice to the subject. The matter requires consultations with constitutional experts, election experts and above all, the party members. "Instead of doing the matter hurriedly, I would request you to kindly circulate a white paper on the subject to all political parties, inviting their views by providing adequate time. If you only do so, we will be able to give concrete suggestions on this important subject," she wrote in the letter. The TMC chief further stated that regarding the development of aspirational districts, her party had already conveyed that they were not in favour of the selection of a few districts as it would not conform to the overall objective of achieving a balanced and uniform development of all the districts of the state. "Our state is committed to ensuring social and economic development of all districts uniformly so that regional imbalances do not rise," she said. Banerjee also said she and her party would wholeheartedly participate in the celebrations of 75 years of Independence and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, but added that as regards the ways to improve the productivity of Parliament, the parliamentary affairs ministry might consult the matter with all the political parties. "Whatever is decided by all the parties, we will agree," she wrote. Buoyed by BJP's victory in 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal, the party's leaders have been claiming that they will overthrow the Banerjee government in the 2021 Assembly polls. The chief minister's decision not to attend the NITI Aayog meeting drew sharp reactions from the BJP, which accused her of not being serious about the development of the state. PTI ASG PNT SNS RC GSN GSN GSN

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