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CM Mamata Banerjee in Siliguri on 4-day tour

Thin crowd at airport due to Covid-19 curbs.

SANKHA GHOSH | Siliguri |

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrived here today on a four day visit, making it her first trip to north Bengal after the Covid-19 outbreak and the ensuing lockdowns.

As she reached Bagdogra Airport today, a thin crowd prompted by the Covid-19 protocols and management greeted her there, something that is unusual. The ambiance at the airport was different today, as it was devoid of the usual gathering and fanfare put up by local party supporters, leaders, and members of different development boards, as they jostled to have a glimpse of the chief minister.

Police used to have a harrowing time managing the crowd. While media persons were cordoned off a few meters away from the usual area today, sources said only a handful of ministers and officials accompanied Miss Banerjee from Kolkata.

“Security arrangements were, however, tight as usual,” a source said.

Among those accompanying the CM are ministers Aroop Biswas and Indranil Sen, the sources added.

The chairman of the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority, Bijoy Chandra Barman, and vice-chairman and senior Trinamul Congress leader Nantu Paul were present at the airport even as they maintained a good distance from the small crowd there.

Darjeeling district party president Ranjan Sarkar said they did not go to airport to receive the CM, following the Covid-19 guidelines.

“In order to maintain the Covid-19 protocol and to avoid crowding, we did not go to the airport. But we welcomed her in a colourful manner at different points of her route leading down to Uttarkanya by following the physical distancing norms,” Mr Sarkar said.

Miss Banerjee was last here in January when she led a march against the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register.

On the way to Uttarkanya where the CM is staying, party workers and leaders were active in welcoming the CM, as they showcases different activities, also in a bid to show the party’s strength in north Bengal amid the pandemic.

Though Miss Banerjee’s visit is highly official when she will hold an administrative review meeting, political observers say it is “totally political” in the TMC’s efforts to beat the main rival, the BJP, in the Assembly elections in 2021.

Police compliant against BJP leader

Hours before the chief minister’s arrival in Siliguri, the West Bengal Trinamul Udbastu Cell filed a complaint at the Siliguri police station today against newly-appointed BJP’S national secretary from Bengal, Anupam Hazra, for allegedly making objectionable remarks about her.

“I will hug Mamata Banerjee if I have corona,” Mr Hazra had said.

In the complaint, two women members of the cell said the comments made by Mr Hazra were against Indian culture and were highly insulting to women. They demanded strict punishment for Mr Hazra.