West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will visit Chennai on November 2 and is likely to hold a meeting with her Tamil Nadu counterpart M K Stalin to discuss their strategies for the 2024 Lok Sabha poll, a senior government official said on Tuesday.
Banerjee will travel to the southern metropolis on Wednesday as she has been invited by West Bengal Governor La Ganesan to his elder brother's birthday on November 3.
The CM, who is likely to stay a night in Chennai, may pay a visit to Stalin at his camp office on November 2 soon after reaching there, the official said.
The Trinamool Congress supremo may also meet several top politicians of Tamil Nadu who are expected to be present at Ganesan's family function, the official added.
Expressing doubts over the outcome of the meeting, opposition leaders questioned Banerjee's trip to Chennai on taxpayers' money to attend a family programme of a "temporary' governor.
La Ganesan had taken up the additional charge of West Bengal on July 18, 2022, besides Manipur after Jagdeep Dhankhar was nominated the vice-presidential candidate by the NDA.
West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury described Banerjee's visit as "nothing but an attempt to restore her lost credentials in Indian politics".
Chowdhury told PTI, "I see no reason why Banerjee is going to Chennai to attend the birthday party of one of the family members of the governor. I think this is a ploy to develop a good relationship with the Centre so that West Bengal does not get another Jagdeep Dhankhar as its governor."
On the proposed meeting between Banerjee and Stalin, who is also the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief, the Congress leader said, "Didi (as Banerjee is called) knows that she has lost her credibility in national politics. She had held several such meetings with many leaders earlier but those had failed miserably. This is the reason she planned this so-called meeting with Stalin. I see this as her attempt to try to restore her lost relevance in Indian politics."
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sujan Chakraborty too questioned Banerjee's Chennai travel and called it an "excuse" to leave Bengal at a time when people are demonstrating demanding jobs.
"I don't see any logic behind a chief minister visiting the family programme of the governor on taxpayers' money. She is actually escaping the state when job aspirants are holding demonstrations demanding employment. She is not at all bothered about them and is fleeing from reality," Chakraborty told PTI when contacted.
The School Service Commission scam, which is rocking the state, refused to die down as nearly 100 aspirants demanding appointment in schools blocked the thoroughfares and were detained in the Salt Lake area here on Tuesday. They claimed to have been deprived of teaching jobs in state-run and state-aided upper primary, secondary and higher secondary schools despite having qualified in the recruitment tests conducted by the Commission.
Sit-in is on by another 100 SSC candidates continued for about 600 days at Mayo Road in the heart of the city. They claim to have qualified for school teachers' jobs in the past years but "did not find a place in merit lists".
Former West Bengal Education minister Partha Chatterjee, a former SSC chairman, a former advisor and a former president of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education have been arrested by central agencies in connection with the High Court-monitored probe into teacher appointment irregularity scam.
Senior BJP leader Rahul Sinha echoed the CPI-M and described the proposed meeting between Banerjee and Stalin as an "absolutely meaningless" one.
"She went to Goa, Tripura and Assam and she could nothing anywhere. The point is TMC has no relevance outside Bengal. She can roam around the country, but that will not yield any result," Sinha said when contacted.
Banerjee, he said, must think about her party's business in Bengal before holding meetings with Stalin and others.
The TMC supremo has in the past met several opposition leaders to try to forge opposition unity. She had at a mega rally of her party in September claimed that she would join hands with other opposition and regional leaders to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2024.
”All opposition parties will join hands to defeat the BJP. All of us will be on one side and the BJP on the other. BJP's arrogance of 300 seats will be its nemesis. There will be ‘khela hobe' in 2024,” she said.