Kolkata/New Delhi: In a stinging reply to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, after he criticised her for making allegations against the Indian Army, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday accused him of making “near-defamatory” remarks and took “strong exception” to his “wild assertion” that her allegations had impacted morale of the armed forces.
“I take strong exception to your wild assertion that my articulation of the rights of the state government vis-a-vis army deployment without clearance has impacted the morale of the armed forces.
“You have also, in the last paragraph chosen to convey the laughable idea that you are the sole spokesperson on behalf of the people at large. I do not think that it behoves a Minister of the Union government to pass near-defamatory remarks on a Chief Minister of any state and I trust that you will rectify the attitude,” Banerjee said in the strongly-worded two-page missive.
On December 1, Banerjee had accused the central government of “deploying the army” along highway toll plazas of Bengal while keeping the state government “in the dark”.
Calling the controversy avoidable, Parrikar on Thursday wrote: “Your allegation in this regard runs the risk of adversely impacting the morale of the country’s armed forces and same were not expected from a person of your standing and experience in public life.”
“Political parties and politicians may have the luxury of making wild and unsubstantial allegations against each other but one needs to be extremely careful while referring to our armed forces. I am sure you would appreciate this,” he said.
Countering Parrikar, Banerjee accused the centre of indulging in a “political vendetta” and said her remarks were directed at the Narendra Modi government and not at the army, for which she had “great respect”.
“During my long political and administrative life, I have never seen such political vendetta by misusing the role of an esteemed organisation.
“We are well aware that the Indian Army is an institution which is the pride of the nation and this has been pointed out by me on many occasions in my public life and even during the time the incident happened.
“But my complaint was not against the army. It was against your government and the government policy, as they act under your directions,” she said.
The Chief Minister maintained that the army had been deployed without informing the state in advance.
“I had in essence only pointed out loud and clear that your ministry had not obtained permission of the state government for large deployment of Army personnel in civilian areas, simultaneously in multiple locations in the state.
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“Written clearance of the state government should be invariably obtained before initiation of any such exercise,” she said.
Later, interacting with reports in her assembly chamber, Banerjee also expressed her annoyance about the language used by Parrikar.