Amid heightened political tensions, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, later describing the meeting “a courtesy call”.

“It was a courtesy call. I came here as I could not go to RCGC (Royal Calcutta Golf Club to receive the Prime Minister),” Banerjee told the media after her meeting with Modi at Raj Bhawan here on Friday evening.

The Trinamool Congress supremo, said the meeting was less about politics and both leaders engaged in a “chat”. She can call on the Prime Minister since Lok Sabha elections dates have not been announced, Banerjee said while speaking to mediapersons outside Raj Bhawan. 

On whether she raised the issue of the State’s due from the Centre, the Chief Minister said, “I raised that matter also.” She, however, did not respond to any political questions.

Notably, according to the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal, the State has a dues of about ₹1.18 lakh crore from the Centre. It has alleged that the central government continued to deny the State’s rights in a federal polity by depriving the citizens of their entitlements.

“Under very important rural development programmes viz. MGNREGA, Prime Minister Awas Yojna and Prime Minister Grameen Sadak Yojna, and also under other important development programmes like National Health Mission, XVth Finance Commission, Food Subsidy, the central government has immorally withheld our due money,” State Finance Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya had said on February 8, while presenting the State budget for the financial year 2024-25.

Interestingly, at a public rally in Bengal’s Hooghly district on Friday afternoon, Modi said the State government was creating “hindrances” in implementing centrally-sponsored welfare schemes meant for the poor, women, youth and farmers.

“Projects worth crores are pending due to non-cooperation of the State government. The TMC government is also not allowing houses to be constructed for poor people under the centrally-sponsored scheme. The Centre is releasing funds, but the State government is not utilising them properly. The State government is putting up roadblocks,” he said.

The Prime Minister, who is on a two-day visit to Bengal, addressed the crowd a day after the arrest of absconding Trinamool Congress leader Shajahan Sheikh, accused of alleged sexual atrocities on women and land grabbing at Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas district. 

“The entire nation is watching Bengal’s condition today. The entire nation is in anger and pain after seeing what TMC has done with the sisters of Sandeshkhali,” he said.

Modi alleged that the Chief Minister and the State government applied ‘full strength to save Shajahan” after the women of Sandeshkhali raised their voices and sought support from Banerjee. “BJP leaders fought to save the honour of the women. Eventually, Bengal police had to arrest the accused yesterday, facing huge pressure from the people and the BJP,” he added.

Following Shajahan’s arrest by the West Bengal police in connection with an alleged assault on ED officers during a raid earlier this year, ruling Trinamool Congress suspended its strongman from the party for a period of six years. A local court remanded him to 10-day police custody.

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