Kolkata, Feb 26: Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde chose not to make harsh comments on the deteriorating law and order situation in West Bengal during his visit to the state and instead praised the state Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, as 'positive' and 'cooperative'.
The state Congress leaders tried their best to make Shinde condemn the Mamata government but the latter did not oblige. He refused to comment, saying he did not receive any report on this aspect. Even when the state Congress leaders tried to convince Shinde about the increasingly tensed situation in Darjeeling, the latter played it down saying there were many such issues across the country.
In July last year, Shinde's predecessor P Chidambaram had blasted the state government during his visit to Kolkata. He had said then that 82 people were killed in inter-party clashes in the last six months which was a worrying trend. Chidambaram's words triggered a verbal war between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the then allies in the UPA government.
The current Union home minister said he had a talk with Banerjee and the latter was positive. He also said that Banerjee was cooperative on various issues, including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Shinde said efforts were being made to find a way to ensure that the state's rights were not encroached upon. The two leaders went to the Sunderbans and later met at Frazergunge, a fishing port in South 24-Parganas. Shinde was even seen calling Mamata as 'my sister'.
Though the local Congress felt frustrated, but political observers felt Shinde chose a moderate way to deal with the Bengal CM for the sake of a smooth passage of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and the Teesta water Sharing Treaty with Bangladesh. Banerjee raised objection in both cases in the past, saying they would hamper the state's interests.
The Congress-led UPA has been facing flak following the serial blasts in Hyderabad on February 21 which killed many people and is seriously thinking to make the NCTC a reality. But it has been facing objection from various chief ministers, including Banerjee. The Centre is also expecting to get Banerjee's nod to go forward with the water treaty with Bangladesh.
Both New Delhi and Dhaka are showing intense passion for this treaty for strategic reasons. Foreign affairs minister Salman Khurshid is likely to visit Kolkata to meet the CM on the Teesta treaty shortly.
The state unit of the Congress was more interested to see Banerjee facing criticism from the Union minister on the question of deteriorating law and order situation in the state and also submitted a petition to him citing various recent instances.
The Left Front did not, however, approach Shinde to condemn Banerjee. Party sources said whey thought complaining to the Centre about the state government repeatedly doesn't reflect well on the spirit of federalism. They also said the Congress had done the job for them.