PM expresses regret to Mamata for Left protest

Last Updated: Wed, Apr 10, 2013 17:42 hrs

The gheraoing of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and manhandling of her colleague Amit Mitra here came in for all-round criticism, even from the Left whose supporters were involved in the unruly incident.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up Banerjee to express regret over the protest faced by her yesterday at the Planning Commission where she was going to discuss the Plan allocation for West Bengal.

Singh called up Banerjee, chief of erstwhile Trinamool Congress, after she sought cancellation of a meeting scheduled with him last evening, sources close to her said today.

Union Ministers Manish Tewari and Kamal Nath also condemned the incident and appealed to political parties to exercise restraint.

"What happened yesterday should be condemned because such behaviour towards Chief Minister of any state is worthy of criticism and I condemn it," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari termed the incident as "extremely unfortunate" and said "Whether it is our friends from the Left, or our friends in Trinamool Congress, or political parties across the length and breadth of this country, everybody needs to exercise restraint".

Congress in-charge of West Bengal Shakeel Ahmed condemned the incident as also the violence indulged in by Trinamool Congress in the state, saying "two wrongs do not make a right".

CPI(M) also "disapproved and condemned" this incident.

"The Party will look into how this has happened," the party Politburo said in a statement after its meeting to review the situation arising out of yesterday's protest.

BJP President Rajnath Singh also condemned the incident and demanded strong action against those responsible. He also spoke to Banerjee.

Montek apologises to Mamata

 Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has apologised to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the unruly mob behaviour outside his office targeting her and her Cabinet colleagues and said steps need to be taken to avoid such situations in the future.

"There was unruly behaviour by mob outside the Planning Commission...I did apologise to her...I think she was very graceful," Ahluwalia told NDTV today.

"Nobody has ever used a Chief Minister's visit to the Planning Commission as an opportunity to have a political protest. Frankly, we will have to think about how to prevent such a thing from happening (in the future)," he added

A group of about 150 protesters from CPI-M and SFI ambushed the Chief Minister and other ministers including state Finance Minister Amit Mitra yesterday when they arrived at Planing Commission complex for annual state plan talks.

Ahluwalia also said Banerjee "certainly did not blame the Planning Commission" for the incident, but she did say that the administration should have handled it in better way.

He said a Chief Minister's visit to Planning Commission to discuss annual plan was an important government function and it was "totally absurd" for political parties to use that opportunity to interrupt process.

To a query whether the Planning Commission was "very generous" in giving 17 per cent hike in Plan, Ahluwalia said: "I don't want to say we are not generous, but we do not discriminate" between states as funds are allocated as per well-defined criteria.

"I think she has done quite well last year, according to most of the indicators and we were very happy to approve the plan," he said, adding, most of the plan would be financed from West Bengal's own resources.

When asked about the criticism that the government has rushed to implement the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme with an eye on elections, Ahluwalia said same critics have been saying government is not moving fast enough in many other areas.

"Quite frankly, I regard this as understandable but a politically opportunistic criticism...I don't think this is connected with general elections," he said.

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