West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday excused herself from the scheduled meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the chiefs of political parties in Delhi on Wednesday, while asking the Centre to prepare a white paper on "one nation, one election", instead of doing it "hurriedly".
Modi has invited the heads of all the political parties that have at least one member either in the Lok Sabha or in the Rajya Sabha for a meeting on June 19 to discuss several issues, including the "one nation, one election" idea, celebration of 75 years of Independence in 2022 and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year.
It will be followed by a dinner-meeting with all the MPs on June 20.
With 22 Lok Sabha members, the Trinamool Congress, led by Banerjee, is the fourth-largest party in the Lower House of Parliament, along with the YSR Congress, which also has 22 members in the Lok Sabha.
With 303 MPs, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is the largest party in the Lok Sabha, followed by the Congress and the DMK.
In a letter to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi, Banerjee has said the matter of "one country, one election" required consultations with experts.
"A proper response on such a sensitive and serious subject like "one country, one election" in such a short time would not do justice to the subject. The matter requires consultations with constitutional experts, election experts and above all, the party members.
"Instead of doing the matter hurriedly, I would request you to kindly circulate a white paper on the subject to all political parties, inviting their views by providing adequate time. If you only do so, we will be able to give concrete suggestions on this important subject," she wrote in the letter.
The TMC chief further stated that regarding the development of aspirational districts, her party had already conveyed that they were not in favour of the selection of a few districts as it would not conform to the overall objective of achieving a balanced and uniform development of all the districts of the state.
"Our state is committed to ensuring social and economic development of all districts uniformly so that regional imbalances do not rise," she said.
Banerjee also said she and her party would wholeheartedly participate in the celebrations of 75 years of Independence and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, but added that as regards the ways to improve the productivity of Parliament, the parliamentary ministry might consult the matter with all the political parties.
"Whatever is decided by all the parties, we will agree," she wrote in the letter.
The TMC chief had also skipped a NITI Aayog meeting last week. She did not attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi either.
Her decision is being seen in the political circle as an outcome of the heightened tussle between the TMC and the BJP in West Bengal.
Buoyed by its victory in 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal in the recently-concluded election, only four less than the TMC's 22, BJP leaders have been claiming that they will overthrow the Mamata Banerjee government in the 2021 state assembly polls.
The West Bengal chief minister's decision not to attend the NITI Aayog meeting drew sharp reactions from the BJP, which accused her of not being serious about the development of the state.
Reacting to the development, West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said Banerjee was yet to recover from her defeat in the parliamentary polls and was making excuses to avoid any meeting convened by the Centre or the saffron party.
"All the political parties are attending it except the TMC. They shout the most about the federal structure but are busy destroying every aspect of a healthy democracy," he said.