New Delhi: Defence minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday rubbished allegations by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee related to an “army coup”, calling it political frustration.
Banerjee is protesting against the presence of the army at toll plazas in several parts of the state, saying the permissions were not taken for the same.
“I am very sad that such routine exercise by army is being used for controversy,” Parrikar told Parliament, adding it was a standard practice. “It is only political frustration.”
The defence minister said the army had rescheduled its exercise after West Bengal police suggested they conduct this on 1-2 December instead of the original scheduled date of 28-30 November.
The army also held a press conference in Kolkata on Friday, terming the allegations of army intervention and coup as “baseless”.
“We deny this charge,” Major General Sunil Yadav said, adding the ongoing exercise simply involves collection of data in all northeastern states.
This was being done not just in West Bengal but nine north-eastern states at 80 such data collection points.
It was an annual exercise and was carried out at same locations last year too, he said, adding all the army officials were unarmed.
The army also recently conducted similar data collection in the states of Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Banerjee had on Thursday night said that she “will stay at the secretariat to guard our democracy”, even asking if it was a “military coup”.
“The army is deployed without informing the State government. This is unprecedented and a very serious matter,” she said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too came down on Banerjee on Friday, saying she had “lost her mental balance” after losing money following the Central government’s shock recall of Rs500 and Rs1,000 banknotes three weeks ago.
“It’s so ridiculous that the CM does not know about the mock drill of the army, which takes place every three to four years… it is quite strange that the CM is not aware about it even as the district magistrate and state administration has proper knowledge about the same,” BJP leader Rahul Sinha told ANI.
The army said the exercise will come to an end on Friday, as planned.