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Denied okay for Rome trip, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee blasts Centre – Times of India

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CM Mamata Banerjee campaigns at Bhowanipur on Saturday.

KOLKATA: The Centre on Friday informed the Bengal government that CM Mamata Banerjee could not travel to Rome for attending a global peace conference as the event was “not commensurate at the level of a chief minister”, prompting Banerjee to accuse the Centre of being vengeful and “jealous”.

“I was going to represent India, it was not a vacation,” Banerjee said at a bypoll campaign in Bhowanipore on Saturday evening. “The Italian government had given me special permission. Several heads of state and religious leaders are going to be present at the event and I was the only Indian invited,” she said, stressing the country’s prestige was at stake and the Centre’s act had compromised that.

“You will not be able to stop me. I am not eager to visit foreign countries, but this was about the respect of the nation…. This government (at the Centre) goes on talking about Hindu interests. But, if it really has Hindu interests at heart, why deny the only Hindu woman representative from India permission (to go there)?” Banerjee asked, adding that all the other invitees were Christians and Muslims.

“I am denied permission whenever I want to go but you (BJP leaders) all can travel as you please,” she said, adding that the only plausible reason for the denial permission was “jealousy, puro jealousy”.

Banerjee’s visit was scheduled for October 6 and 7 and the invite to the event — “Peoples as Brothers, Future Earth” — was an acknowledgement of “her contribution to the cause of social justice and her commitment to the underprivileged and the disadvantaged”, officials here said. The Bengal CM is the only Indian invited for the event; other invitees include Pope Francis, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Al-Azhar (Egypt) Great Imam Ahmad al Tayyib.

The invite for the October event in Rome reached Banerjee on July 22. All foreign trips by CMs require a nod from the ministry of external affairs. This invite, too, was sent to the Centre according to protocol for its feedback. The response from the ministry of external affairs reached Nabanna late on Friday.

The invite from the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio president, Marco Impagliazzo, had congratulated her for her “significant election and for the important work for social justice, for the development of your country and, therefore, for peace, which you have been doing for over ten years now”. “I feel your commitment and your generous battles in favour of the weakest and most disadvantaged (are) very close to my sensitivity and to the work of the Community of Sant’Egidio,” the letter added.

The CM and her party had responded similarly to a 2018 cancelled trip to Chicago, which was to mark 125 years of Swami Vivekananda’s historic speech at the World Parliament of Religion. Banerjee had called that the result of an “unholy conspiracy hatched by certain people” and said the incident had given her “a lot of pain”. The organisers themselves had cancelled that event; another programme was later held in Chicago under a different banner, where RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was a speaker.

There was another cancelled trip to China before that, the cancellation coming at the last minute.

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