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Oxford debating society puts off Mamata event at 11th hour, draws fire

Source: PTI
December 02, 2020 17:25 IST
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The Oxford Union Debating Society, citing unforeseen "circumstances", on Wednesday sought to postpone a scheduled virtual address by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the last moment, drawing flak from the ruling Trinamool Congress, which sniffed "political pressure from the highest level" in the matter.

IMAGE: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses the media at the CM’s office at Nabanna in Kolkata. Photograph: Utpal Sarkar / ANI Photo.

Banerjee was set to become the first Indian woman chief minister to address the 'The Oxford Union Debate' around 2.30 pm, but the organisers around 1.50 pm requested that the programme be rescheduled, stating that "nothing prevails over circumstances sometimes".

 

Taking to Twitter, the state home department said, "Today afternoon, the organisers have suddenly sought postponement and rescheduling of the programme at the last moment!"

"The request has been made telephonically from the organisers' end, citing some unforeseen problems, a brief while ago. The programme with Oxford Union today stands cancelled."

The TMC leadership, infuriated over the development, claimed that "political pressure" might have forced the organisers to take such a call.

"This is unprecedented... A programme planned months ahead was cancelled a few minutes before the event was scheduled to start. This is not the first time that such a thing has happened. Earlier, too, her programmes at international fora and foreign visits have been cancelled at the eleventh hour.

"All sorts of pressure were applied from the highest level to stop Mamata Banerjee's address. We condemn such politics," a senior TMC parliamentarian told PTI on condition of anonymity.

In 2018, Banerjee's programme at Chicago to mark Swami Vivekananda's birth anniversary, scheduled visit to China and her address at St Stephen's college in New Delhi were cancelled, one after another.

Offering its "sincerest apologies", the Oxford Union Debating Society said in a mail to the government, "Our audience sent a great many questions, and we were all working hard to pull a number of elements together. However, nothing prevails over circumstances sometimes; it seems."

"I sincerely hope that the hon'ble chief minister will understand and might honour us with her esteemed presence at the earliest possible convenience to you. With your permission, I will pass your details onto my successor, to whom I hand over this Friday," the mail said.

According to state secretariat sources, Banerjee, as the first Indian woman CM at the debate, was expected to talk about the welfare schemes launched by her government, such as 'Kanyashree', 'Rupasree', 'Krishak Bandhu' and 'Duare Bangla' during the address.

She had received the invitation in July, the sources said.

Founded in 1823, the Oxford Union has featured several world leaders and luminaries as speakers, including US presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Regan, British prime ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, physicist Albert Einstein and spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

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