The Trinamool Congress (TMC) today raised the issue of the presence of army personnel at toll plazas in various parts of West Bengal in both the houses of the parliament, accusing the BJP-led Centre for the incident. TMC leadership has also decided to meet President Pranab Mukherjee over the incident. A senior TMC leader, on condition of anonymity, told PTI, “We are planning to meet President Pranab Mukherjee and inform him about the incident. The entire country should know, how BJP is engaged in vindictive politics,”.
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has alleged that army personnel were deployed at toll plazas in the state without her government being informed and asked if it was a “military coup”.
The army has strongly rebutted her allegations saying that the exercise was being carried out in coordination with the Kolkata Police. “This is being done in coordination with local police authorities. The exercise was earlier planned for November 27 and 28. The dates were changed to November 30 to December 2 on a specific request by Kolkata Police due to ‘Bharat Bandh’ called on November 28,” said Major General Sunil Yadav.
Yadav said that a similar exercise in Eastern Command was carried out in November 2015 at the same places. He said that a recce was conducted with two inspectors of the Kolkata Police at toll plaza on November 2, 2015. However, the Kolkata Police continue to deny having worked with the army on this exercise, DNA reports.
The army has since released letters to show that it was in communication with the state police on the annual exercise to “gather statistical data about load carriers that could be made available to the army in case of a contingency,” NDTV reports.
Army's letters (written earlier) in connection with the force deployment in West Bengal. pic.twitter.com/YUm4BiOI5k
— ANI (@ANI) December 2, 2016
According to the Indian Express, Banerjee had spent the night at Nabanna – the state secretariat – to protest against the presence of army personnel at the toll plaza. However, army personnel had left the toll plaza near the secretariat last night.
Meanwhile, speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said “the Centre must clarify…why state’s rights are being impinged on”. In response to the uproar in parliament defence minister Manohar Parrikar said the TMC’s reaction stemmed from “political frustration”. He said, “Its sad that a routine exercise has been made into a controversy now.” the Indian Express reports Parrikar as having said.
(With PTI inputs)