After two years of bitter political exchanges between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her one-time close aide, West Bengal Assembly on Friday saw a rare display of political courtesy when Ms. Banerjee invited the Leader of Opposition (LOP) for a cup of tea in her office.
Earlier in the day, participating in the discussions in the House, the Chief Minister referred to Mr. Adhikari and said, “I was fond of him”. Later, she added that at one point she adored him like a brother.
Both leaders have been at loggerheads since December 2020, when Mr. Adhikari joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the 2021 Assembly election in the State, after having been a key member of the Cabinet run by Ms. Banerjee for over nine years. What followed was a bitter contest between the two leaders at Nandigram, where Mr. Adhikari won by a slender margin of 1,956 votes. Since Trinamool Congress came to power for a third consecutive time, the State government and the LOP have been involved in not just political fights but several legal battles.
Speaking to media persons after the meeting, Mr. Adhikari said it was only a “courtesy meeting”. The LOP, however, added the Chief Minister had called him alone but he took BJP Chief Whip Manoj Tigga and MLAs Ashok Lahiri and Agnimitra Paul with him to her chambers.
Mr. Adhikari expressed hope in the Chief Minister’s goodwill will continue in future. He raised issues like the appointment of a BJP legislator as chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The State government has appointed Krishna Kalyani, MLA from Raiganj who won Assembly election on a BJP ticket but later joined the Trinamool Congress as PAC chairperson. “She is saying that Krishna Kalyani is officially BJP. She will have to stop saying Krishna Kalyani and Biswajit Das (another MLA who defected to Trinamool) are BJP MLAs,” he said.
The LOP also said that MLAs and MPs of the Opposition parties are not called to administrative meetings presided over by the Chief Minister.
While participating in an event organised by the State Assembly on Constitution Day, the Chief Minister said that Leaders of Opposition should have participated on the occasion.
The meeting between the BJP leaders and the Chief Minister assumes significance as it comes before Ms. Banerjee’s likely visit to Delhi for a preparatory meeting on the G-20 summit called by the Prime Minister on December 5. The timing is also crucial as it comes ahead of rural elections in the State, which has a history of violence.