With Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating the Jalpaiguri Circuit Bench of Calcutta High Court from Maynaguri on Friday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Tourism Minister Gautam Deb came down heavily on him claiming the state government as well as the High Court were kept in the dark about the event.

The CM took strong exception to the move and said the state government would write to the Supreme Court informing it about this inauguration where both the HC and the state government were left out.

Addressing a press conference at the Eco Park, Banerjee said, “The land is ours, Circuit Bench is of Calcutta High Court. Neither the groom nor the bride is there but the bandwalla has come to play the election band.”

Accusing PM Modi of hijacking the project, Banerjee claimed she and the then Calcutta High Court Chief Justice had planned to inaugurate the circuit bench four months ago but the Centre did not issue any notification. “The then Chief Justice Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya had told me, ‘We cannot inaugurate the Circuit Bench without the Centre’s notification’,” she recalled.

The chief minister wondered what prompted Narendra Modi to inaugurate the Circuit Bench with such alacrity. “The approval for the Circuit Bench was suddenly given to facilitate the inauguration by Modi to win some political brownie points,” she alleged.

“Who has given land for the new building and funds for the circuit bench? Rs 300 crore has been spent by us (the state government), the land was given by us,” Banerjee said. “Was anyone from the Calcutta High Court present at the function? Neither the state nor the Calcutta High Court was informed,” she alleged.

“Modi babu did not inform the Calcutta High Court or the state government. He inaugurated it only because Lok Sabha elections are approaching. It is a matter of great shame,” she said.

State Tourism Minister Gautam Deb, who was in Alipurduar on Friday, too criticised the manner in which the Jalpaiguri Circuit Bench was inaugurated from a political stage at Maynaguri. The minister termed such a move “inoperative” and “illegal.”

Addressing a meeting of the Alipurduar district Trinamool Congress at the Falakata Dak Bungalow, Deb said: “The way Mr Modi inaugurated the Circuit Bench of the Calcutta High Court in a political stage at Maynaguri was completely illegal and inoperative.”

“Inauguration of a circuit bench is a subject of the court and no representative from the Bar was present on the stage. This is a political vindictive attitude of Mr Modi and he did so by bypassing all constitutional laws,” added Deb.

Alipurduar District Trinamool Congress president Mohan Sharma, Alipurduar MLA Sourav Chakraborty, Falakata MLA Anil Adhikary, and other party leaders attended the meeting.

Calling the BJP a “communal party”, Mohan Sharma said, “We will be organizing such mass meetings in every block in Alipurduar district. There is no space for a communal party like the BJP in our district.”

Notably, union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had addressed a rally at the Falakata Rabindra Nagar railway ground on 2 February, and to counter that BJP gathering, the TMC had called a meeting on the same ground. However, the Railways denied permission for the TMC meeting there, following which the venue for the rally was changed to the Falakata Dak Bungalow ground.

Deb also went to Siliguri on Friday where he said the PM inaugurated the Jalpaiguri Circuit Bench after the state government had made all the infrastructure ready and spent crores of rupees for the project. “The way PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the circuit bench today was illegal and unauthorised encroachment. We strongly condemn the gesture. The state government had readied the infrastructure on its own land. The state law minister, law secretary, and High Court judges visited the place on a number of occasions. I would like to humbly ask Mr Modi how much money they spent,” Deb said.

In Kolkata, the chief minister also lambasted Narendra Modi for laying the foundation stone for four-laning of the Falakata-Salsalabari section of National Highway-31 D, saying it was her and Tourism Minister Gautam Deb who were pursuading the NHAI to take up the project on the 41.7-km stretch.

The tourism minister too took to task the PM for laying stone for the NHAI project. “The section is part of the fourlane project between Ghoshpukur and Salsalabari (153km), out of which the work for 76 km had started two years ago. So what is the meaning of the foundation stone-laying of the same stretch?” Deb asked.