Calcutta, Jan. 22: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today split semantic hairs to declare that she had no intention to beat up the Prime Minister, skipping the larger question of if a responsible public figure should utter such phrases to play to the gallery.
"Ami to maarte parina. Maarar katha bolini (I cannot resort to beating. I didn't talk about beating)," Mamata said at a programme to inaugurate a fair-price medicine shop at SSKM Hospital.
The chief minister added: "I will say one thing and they (the media) will write another. My words have been distorted. In my speech at Canning, I said I met the Prime Minister six to seven times on our financial position. In a democracy, I can do that. What is wrong?"
The chief did not specifically say she would beat up the Prime Minister while addressing a public meeting and referring to the cut in fuel and fertiliser subsidies. But she did ask the crowd yesterday "Maarbo giye (should I resort to beating)?" and declare that "I am ready to go to the bitter end for the sake of the people".
Mamata today advised the media to use her quotes correctly. "Language theek korun. Ardhek language debenna. Ami bhaat aar ami bhaat khai, duto ek katha noy. Nijeder nirapeksha bolbenna (give the quotes correctly. Don't give half quotes. I am rice and I eat rice are not the same thing. Don't say you are impartial)," she said.
State Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya termed Mamata's Canning speech "very inappropriate".
"Mamata Banerjee may have issued a clarification today, but the very suggestion of beating up the Prime Minister is very, very inappropriate. How could she have even raised such a question in the context of the Prime Minister?" Bhattacharya told The Telegraph.
He asserted that Mamata should immediately issue a statement and apologise to the Prime Minister.
Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra said the chief minister should not have used such words against the Prime Minister.
"Whatever she said, she should not have. I don't think she wanted to beat up the Prime Minister. Probably, she was asking people if she should do so. I don't think she has ever been involved in a case of assault. We wanted to wait till she came out with an explanation," Mishra said.
He added: "Any person working 22 hours a day and getting two hours of sleep will find it difficult to maintain her mental balance. She has to do everything on her own. She also has to manage events on the dais for two to three hours at a stretch. This is unfortunate. We are worried about her health."
Governor M.K. Narayanan refused to be drawn into the controversy. "She was joking, I think…. I don't know," he said on the sidelines of a programme in Madhyamgram.