Mumbai: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s affinity for modaks, a request for a Bengal Bhavan in Mumbai, a potential Lal-Bal-Pal tourism circuit, Bengal legends in Mumbai’s entertainment industry, and the need for youngsters to take over the reins of politics.
These are some of the discussions that transpired behind the closed doors of a meeting room in Nariman Point’s Trident Hotel where Banerjee met Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray and the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, according to a column penned by Raut in Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana Sunday.
“She (Banerjee) walked until the elevator of the hotel while seeing off Aaditya Thackeray. At that time, Aaditya Thackeray politely stopped her, but she still came,” Raut said in his weekly column ‘Rokhthok’. According to Raut, Banerjee told Thackeray, “You youngsters should now take the reins of politics in your hands. You will have my backing. I have been in politics since student movements. I know the power of the youth.”
Banerjee met Thackeray and Raut for 30 minutes last week, on the first day of her three-day Mumbai visit. While she wanted to meet Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the meeting could not materialise as the Shiv Sena President was in the hospital, recovering after a cervical spine surgery.
Amid talks of Banerjee trying to mobilise opposition parties for an alliance against the BJP, Thackeray scion Aaditya was tight-lipped about his meeting with the West Bengal CM. He said Shiv Sena President Thackeray shares a “strong bond” with Banerjee that will be naturally taken forward, and that he also discussed working together on tourism.
A Bengal Bhavan in Mumbai
According to Raut’s column, Banerjee praised 31-year-old Aaditya’s work in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government. With Aaditya holding the tourism portfolio in Maharashtra, Banerjee also said there needs to be more exchange of tourists between the two states with there being a wide interest among the people of Maharashtra in the Sunderbans and the people of Bengal in the former’s ancient forts.
Raut said the West Bengal CM also inquired if Mumbai has a zoo, to which Aaditya, who also holds portfolios such as environment and protocol, informed her about Mumbai’s Byculla Zoo, popularly known as Rani Baug.
“Mamata Banerjee made one request to Shri Aaditya Thackeray,” Raut said in his column, quoting Banerjee as saying, “Many people come to Mumbai from West Bengal for medical treatment, especially at Parel’s Tata Memorial Hospital. They don’t find accommodation. If West Bengal gets a plot, a Bengal Bhavan can be built and an arrangement can be made for such needy people.”
Raut added that the West Bengal CM’s demand is not unjustified as there is already an Odisha Bhavan and Uttar Pradesh Bhavan near Mumbai, and that there is a “sentimental relation” between Maharashtra and West Bengal that needs to be preserved.
Lal Bal Pal to Shreya Ghoshal
Raut said Aaditya put forward a proposal before Banerjee to develop a ‘Lal Bal Pal’ (Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal) tourism circuit with Tilak being from Maharashtra and Pal from West Bengal. Banerjee readily accepted, the MP said.
The West Bengal CM invited Aaditya to attend a film festival to be held in Kolkata in December as its chief guest, being the “chief representative of Mumbai’s entertainment business”. Raut said Aaditya immediately accepted the invitation.
“West Bengal has given many artists, music directors and singers to the entertainment industry. Mamata took names such as Burman, Manna Dey, Hemant Kumar. Aaditya Thackeray added that Shreya Ghoshal, though relatively new, is very popular,” Raut said in his column.
Before meeting the Shiv Sena leaders, Banerjee visited Mumbai’s popular Siddhivinayak Temple where she said she prayed for Maharashtra CM Thackeray’s speedy recovery.
Raut said in his column that later that evening, as she met Aaditya and himself, the West Bengal CM told the two leaders about how much she likes “Ganpati ladoo,” referring to the ‘modaks,’ a traditional sweet offering to the deity.
Banerjee reportedly told them, there is a vibrant Marathi community in Kolkata with whom she regularly corresponds and they regularly send her modaks.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)