There was high drama in Kolkata on Thursday evening when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the Centre of deploying the army at various toll plazas in several districts of the state without informing the state government. She called the media to the state secretariat ‘Nabanna’ at 10 pm and declared that in view of threat to her security, she and her officials would not leave the secretariat till the army was withdrawn.

Army sources in Kolkata were quoted as saying that this was a routine annual exercise. The aim, they said, was to assess the types of vehicles plying at different hours, collect contact details etc in order to ascertain the number and types of vehicles the Army would be able to requisition in case of an emergency. The information, these sources claimed, were passed on to the respective District Magistrate and Police.

But the chief minister warned the Centre against deploying the Army at toll plazas and highways in the state. She pointed out that law and order was the state’s responsibility and the army could not be deployed in the state without the consent of the state government. She warned that she would fight the infringement politically. What has happened, she said, was worse than what happened during the Emergency.

The Headquarters of the Army’s Eastern Command at Fort William in Kolkata is in close vicinity of the state secretariat. Army sources claimed that the survey operation was going on for the past three days. Indications are that the exercise will end early tomorrow morning.

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However, Trinamool Congress sources questioned the version of these “Army sources”, asking why such an exercise was not being carried out at the western border, which is aflame at the moment. They added that even if the exercise is for requisition purposes, what does the Army have to do with toll plazas and checking traffic patterns, and that this doesn’t happen anywhere in the country.

Some non-Trinamool, non-BJP political sources have also speculated that it might be an exercise to check the flow of money across the border.

Subsequently the Army’s Eastern Command had issued the following statement through its Twitter handle:

However the same was immediately contested and denied both by the Kolkata Police and by the West Bengal Police through its handle @wbpolice and was cited by Derek O Brian contradicting the Army.

However the tweet by the West Bengal Police handle @wbpolice was deleted soon, but by then it had been late and the sparring was out for the public to see.

Last when this report was filed, Mamata Banerjee was still in the State Secretariat and her last tweet was wherein she seemed to have updated herself that the Army was also out in several other cities and districts of  West Bengal.

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