Kolkata, Dec 3 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee left the state Secretariat on Friday evening after staying put for 36 hours to protest the alleged army deployment in the state and threatened to explore “legal options” if the army was not withdrawn.
Addressing the media before leaving the seat of power “Nabanna” in neighbouring Howrah district, Banerjee said the army was deployed at toll plazas, keeping her government “in the dark” about the move.
“We have never seen such arrogance (by the Centre). If army is not withdrawn, we will explore legal options,” she said.
She said she had great respect for the army, but was “sad” in the manner in which they were being used for “political vendetta”.
Banerjee, who is also the Trinamool Congress supremo, claimed the army informed the police about their exercise only for one spot — the toll plaza of Vidyasagar Setu (Bridge) near Nabanna.
“Police did not permit them to conduct such exercise. They did not give any intimation for other places where they undertook their exercise,” she said.
The Chief Minister said such exercises were not conducted in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Punjab, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh.
“Why was it conducted in Bengal?” she asked and answered her own question: “It was done in Bengal because we have been raising our voice for the people of India.”
The drama unfolded on Thursday evening when Banerjee alleged the army has been deployed at the Dankuni and Palsit toll plazas on National Highway 2 (connecting Delhi and Kolkata) without informing the state government.
Demanding to know whether a military coup has taken place, she said: “The motive is political, vindictive, unconstitutional, unethical and undemocratic.”
Later, Banerjee said the army was present at the toll plazas of most of the districts.
She spent the night at the Secretariat, demanding the withdrawal of the army from the second Hooghly Bridge toll plaza, about 500 metres from Nabanna. “I’ll keep vigil to protect the democracy, to protect my democratically elected government,” she said.
Shortly after midnight, the Eastern Command said the army has been asked to withdraw from the toll plaza near Nabanna as it had already collected the data it required.
Past 2 a.m., Banerjee — holding her third round of media conference since Thursday evening — stuck to her decision to spend the night at Nabanna, arguing the army may be back.
Denying Banerjee’s charges, Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar and the Eastern Command of the army claimed it was a routine annual data collection exercise carried out to assess the availability of load carriers at all the major entry points in various states.
General Officer Commanding Bengal area (officiating) Maj. Gen. Sunil Yadav said the exercise was conducted with full knowledge and coordination with the local police.