Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu on Friday termed TMC chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee's demands to remove army from checkpoints in the state as attempts of diversion from the main issue at hand - demonetisation.
Speaking ahead of another day of Winter Session of Parliament in New Delhi, Naidu said Army is just doing regular exercise which will continue for another 3 days.
Mamata banerjee camps out at office
In dramatic turn of events on Thursday night, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee spent the night locked up inside her office – state secretariat ‘Nabana’ in Kolkata demanding removal of Army soldiers deployed on different toll plazas in throughout the state.
According to reports, the army soldiers have since vacated the toll plazas in Kolkata, but West Bengal CM is still in her office claiming that there are similar deployments in 18 other inner districts.
However, Army has termed it a routine exercise.
The incident, she termed as military coup, comes only hours after TMC and other opposition parties raised issue of ‘attempt to murder’ on her in Parliament.
West Bengal CM had on Wednesday claimed that her plane was ‘forced to hover 30-40mins without sufficient fuel’ on her way to Bhubaneswar for a rally.
Here are the latest updates:
1:00pm: In repsonse to Indian Army's letters, Supratim Sarkar, Additional CP of Kolkata Police, released a letter saying they did not give permission to army for the routine exercise.
11:45am: Newsnation gets letter that Indian Army sent to concerned authorities to seek intimate about excercises
11:20 am: Major General Sunil Yadav on army collecting money from people at the toll counters in WB
#Similar exercise also been carried out in Jharkhand, UP and Bihar from 26th September to 1st October this year
#They're only collecting data of heavy vehicles,this is an annual exercise carried out every year
#Over 80 such collection data points established in entire region, personnel of army consisting of 5-6 at each point are unarmed
#Exercise involves collection of data in all NE states, including Assam,Arunachal,WB,Manipur,Nagaland,Meghalaya,Tripura,Mizoram,Sikkim
#Army formations in Eastern command at local levels are carrying out routine annual data collection exercises
#This is baseless, we deny this charge
#This is an exercise carried out for our operational purposes
10:25 am: Eastern command said its a regular exercise, will do this for 3 days. Fine if they want to divert from main issues,or raise in Parl: Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister
Sudip Bandyopadhyay, TMC on the issue
10:06am: Suddenly it was seen that army was covering big important toll plazas, controlling bridges under WB Govt
10:04am: Want a clarification by Def Min on army deployment in Bengal, we will be very vocal about this in both the houses
10:02am: It is a grave situation when a CM is being continuously harassed and her life is in danger
10:00am: Without intimating state Govt, way they are operating whole system,is unbelievable as if some emergency is going to be proclaimed in WB
9:25am: Indian Army sighted conducting checks in Siliguri, West Bengal
Military police conducting checks in Siliguri (West Bengal) pic.twitter.com/Ot1tRLfP3N— ANI (@ANI_news) December 2, 2016
Here’s the time line of the drama that unfolded through Thursday night:
Friday, Dec 2
7:30am: TMC to raise the issue of "army deployment in West Bengal" in both the houses of Parliament today.
7:00am: TMC announced that Mamata Banerjee will meet President Pranab Mukherjee to discuss this issue on Friday.
1:30am: Past midnight, the West Bengal CM conducted a hurried press conference where she accused Centre of creating a situation ‘worse than emergency’. She also rubbished the claim of defence ministry spokesperson that it was a routine exercise.
When told that Army has been removed the toll plazas, she said she cannot leave yet as there are similar deployments in 18 other inner district and she has a duty to protect democracy in the state.
Thursday, Dec 1
12:00am – 1:30am: Somewhere before Mamata Banerjee’s late night press conference, media journalists went to the toll plaza near Nabanna and found that the Armymen were no longer there. A temporary shed set up for them was also removed. There was no official version of the Army about the removal.
11:45pm: Soon the WB CM noted that there were more army deployments in the inner district on the state.
More army deployment in diff Bengal districts Jalpaiguri,Alipurduar, Darjeeling,Barrackpur, N24Pgs, Howrah,Hooghly,Kol,Murshidabad Burdwan— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) December 1, 2016
11:34pm: Backing Derek O’Brien and Mamata Banerjee’s argument, West Bengal Police also took to Twitter and denied giving consent to the army presence or exercise and claimed that they had in fact issued a written objection to any such activity.
“Army exercise (sic) at Toll Plaza was objected to in writing by Kolkata Police, citing security reasons & traffic inconvenience. @easterncomd,” @KolkataPolice tweeted.
Army excercise at Toll Plaza was objected to in writing by Kolkata Police, citing security reasons & traffic inconvenience.@easterncomd— Kolkata Police (@KolkataPolice) December 1, 2016
11:31pm: Mamata Banerjee dismissed Indian Army’s claim and prior information and accused them of misleading the public, “Absolutely wrong and misleading facts by @easterncomd We have great respect for you, but please please don't mislead the people.”
Absolutely wrong and misleading facts by @easterncomd We have great respect for you, but please please don't mislead the people— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) December 1, 2016
11:24 pm: Jumping into the quagmire, TMC’s senior leader Derek O’Brien dismissed Army’s claim and termed it incorrect.
Absolutely incorrect. Do not spread misinformation. Please https://t.co/guiFZ8YnG1— Derek O'Brien (@quizderek) December 1, 2016
10:57pm: Few minutes later Indian Army’s Eastern Command reacted to the escalating situation and clarified that it was just a routine exercise being conducted with consent of state police: “Army conducting routine exercise with full knowledge and coordination with WB Police. Speculation of army taking over toll plaza incorrect.”
Army conducting routine exercise with full knowledge & coord with WB Police. Speculation of army taking over toll plaza incorrect @adgpi— EasternCommand_IA (@easterncomd) December 1, 2016
10:38pm: About an hour later the state chief minister announced that she will stay put in her office until the army deployment is not removed from all toll plazas.
“Until and unless the Army stationed in front of Nabanno, the Bengal state govt secretariat, is withdrawn I will be staying at my Secretariat to guard our democracy,” he tweet said.
Until and unless the Army stationed in front of Nabanno, the Bengal state govt secretariat, is withdrawn 1/2— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) December 1, 2016
... I will be staying at my Secretariat to guard our democracy 2/2— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) December 1, 2016
9:51pm: Mamata Banerjee noted the presence of Indian Army near her secretariat late on Thursday night and remarked that such a presence was without state police’s consent, “Very unfortunate. Army stationed in front of Nabanno, the Bengal State Secretariat in a high security zone, inspite of Police objection. I am waiting here at the Secretariat and watching, to guard our democracy,” she tweeted.
Very unfortunate. Army stationed in front of Nabanno, the Bengal State Secretariat in a high security zone, inspite of Police objection 1/2— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) December 1, 2016
... I am waiting here at the Secretariat and watching, to guard our democracy 2/2— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) December 1, 2016
6:24pm: TMC leader Derek O'Bren raised the concern of Indian Army collecting toll at the plazas in Kolkata:
#BREAKING Situation has got worse. How is the Army collecting tolls at a toll plaza near the Bengal secretariat, a high security zone ? 1/2— Derek O'Brien (@quizderek) December 1, 2016
What is the Army doing at toll plazas in Bengal without Centre informing State. Watch video 2/2 pic.twitter.com/3Kxb9yYa85— Derek O'Brien (@quizderek) December 1, 2016