Army and Mamata Banerjee back to pavilion

There is no official document available with the Army that shows that the state gave its consent

Army and Mamata Banerjee back to pavilion

As soon as the last army truck left the toll booth at Ghoshpukur in Jalpaiguri, Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal left Nabanna, the state secretariat on Friday.

It was after spending more than 30 hours at Nabanna that Banerjee left the government headquarters when the last truck departed following the end of the first act of a drama that started 10 days ago, when the defence ministry wrote to the Hastings police station in Kolkata requesting assistance for conducting its annual exercise on highways.

Trinamool members said Mamata's unprecedented digging-in at the state secretariat has taken the West Bengal government's confrontation with the Centre to a new high. On Thursday and Friday, she had accused the Centre of "using the Army against our (Bengal) government", which prompted Union minister Ananth Kumar to request TMC Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay "to leave the Indian Army out of politics".

Letters from the Army issued to various state government agencies November 23 onwards indicate that it had "intimated" the state government about its intent to conduct its exercise. But the state government said the Army did not obtain "permission" to conduct the exercise and rushed into it.

"The Army has been deployed without informing the state government. This is unprecedented and a very serious matter," the CM had said on Thursday , when she announced she would stay put at Nabanna till "the Army withdraws from the state".

There is no official document available with the Army that shows that the state gave its consent.
But Army officials claimed the state government's reaction came as a surprise because Army personnel conducted a joint reconnaissance with two inspectors of Kolkata Police at Vidyasagar Setu on November 27. "We mutually identified the locations and telephonically conveyed that the issue had been resolved. This is how we conducted the exercise," officiating General Officer Commanding (GOC), Bengal area, Sunil Yadav, said.

But that joint inspection came two days after additional commissioner of police (III) Supratim Sarkar wrote to the Army, advising against taking up the exercise at the spot because of the "huge traffic volume and its proximity to the state secretariat which is a high-security zone". The Army had postponed the exercise of November 28 to November 30 following opposition's anti-demonetisation protest.

However, Army officials also pointed out that a similar exercise had been conducted in Bengal last year.

Banerjee, however, while leaving the office said, "The matter went up to Parliament and the government's reply is misleading, full of misinformation... It's a concocted story.I would like to thank members of the opposition who backed our cause in Parliament. It has happened in Bengal because we are with the people."