Kolkata, May 23:
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will stay away from the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as prime minister May 26, but send two of her close associates to the event, a state minister announced Friday.
Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said Finance Minister Amit Mitra and party’s national general secretary and Rajya Sabha member Mukul Roy would grace the function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan for which Banerjee has been invited.
He said Banerjee would be preoccupied with the birthday celebrations of rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam May 26 when she would also inaugurate “Nazrul Tirtha” in the city’s north eastern outskirts.
Banerjee and Modi had engaged in a serial war of words during the Lok Sabha election campaign.
Banerjee has also not sent any congratulatory messages to Modi who led the BJP to an absolute majority for the first time in the polls.
The Trinamool chief has for years faced attacks from the opposition in West Bengal – which has an estimated 25 percent plus Muslim population – for sending flowers to then Gujarat chief minister Modi on his victory in the 2002 assembly polls, months after fierce communal disturbances in the western state.
However, Trinamool’s discomfiture with Modi was also in evidence during the day.
Initially, Hakim said Roy would represent the Trinamool. But within minutes he returned to the media podium at the state secretariat Nabanna with an amendment. “Roy, like Mitra, will represent the government.”
When journalists asked the minister to spell out the post which Roy held in the government, he replied: “He is the leader of our MPs in parliament”.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in assembly Sujya Kanta Mishra said the nobody from the West Bengal unit of the Communist Party of India-Marxist would be present at the May 26 programme.
“I can say that no one from our state (party) unit will attend the swearing-in. In the past also, we had boycotted the swearing in ceremony of the BJP-led government at the centre,” he said.
However, the CPI-M politburo member parried a query on whether the party was nationally boycotting Modi’s swearing in. “I’m not the politburo spokesperson. This question can be answered only by them.”
In the recent polls, the Banerjee led Trinamool bagged 34 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state. The CPI-M came up with its worst performance in the state since its formation 50 years back by winning only two seats. A resurgent BJP also got two seats.