A three-member Central team had separate rounds of discussions here on Tuesday with senior officials of the West Bengal government on the recent political violence in different parts of the State, even as the ruling Left Front - insisting that the visit was unnecessary - said that if the Centre thinks that “it will give a lesson” to the State by invoking Article 356, then “the people of West Bengal are ready to face the challenge.”
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram may have said that the team’s visit should not be seen “through the prism of Article 356,” but the Centre had bowed to “coalition compulsions” of any ally which was bent on creating anarchy and violence and whose leader, a colleague in the Union Cabinet, perceived the arrival of the Central team as a “prelude” to invoking Article 356, said chairman of the Left Front Committee Biman Bose, without naming the Trinamool Congress or its chief, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Officials of the team led by D.R.S. Chaudhary, Additional Secretary (Home), had talks with the State’s Chief and Home Secretaries and the Director-General of Police, during which they were briefed on the steps being taken to check inter-party political clashes occurring in different parts of West Bengal since the Lok Sabha election schedule was announced earlier this year.
The progress made in the joint security operations to flush out Maoists in the State’s Paschim Medinipur district was also discussed. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was reportedly apprised by the State officials of what transpired in their talks with the team.
State Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakrabarti later told journalists that the team, which is scheduled to return to New Delhi on Wednesday evening, has so far not expressed its desire to visit any district where violence occurred in recent times. It would meet officials of nine trouble-prone districts before its departure.
“Purely non-political support” had been sought from the officials, Mr. Chakrabarti said, declining to elaborate any further.
Asked whether any critical observations were made by the team in the course of its discussions with the State administration, Mr. Chakrabarti answered in the negative. “I was told by the team leader that it had come to assist the State government in maintaining peace and law and order,” he added.
“No State, no area is 100 per cent trouble-free. When incidents take place it is possible to restore peace…On the whole I feel that the situation [in the State] is under control,” Mr. Chakrabarti said.
A Left Front delegation called on the team as scheduled and handed over a memorandum detailing incidents of violence perpetrated on their workers and supporters by the Trinamool Congress and the Maoists; 110 Left workers have been killed since the April-May Lok Sabha elections.
The Trinamool Congress leadership, though also invited, decided against meeting the Central team, as it had objections to calling on the team at the Writers’ Building in view of its stand not to go to the State Secretariat in protest against the arrest of the Leader of the Opposition from there on October 16. Party leaders will be meeting the Central officials elsewhere on Wednesday.
The State’s Congress leadership said it would submit its memorandum to the Union Home Minister as it was not given the required time to prepare and hand it over to the visiting team.