Till Sunday evening, Trinamool Congress leaders were in the dark about the travel plans of party chairperson and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to Delhi later this week. President Pranab Mukherjee has invited her for a dinner hosted by him for Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
An aide of Ms. Banerjee said that on April 7, the Chief Minister would inaugurate the new district of Asansol, carved out of Bardhaman district. â€œHer schedule is relatively less tight from April 8, but I am not aware of her plans,â€ the aide said. Official talks between the Prime Ministers will be held on April 8.
Many feel that the Bengal Chief Ministerâ€™s meeting with Ms. Hasina could be a step ahead in addressing one of the most contentious issues between Bangladesh and India, the sharing of Teesta river water.
Also Read:Â Mamata remains rigid against Teesta deal
So far, Ms. Banerjee has not indicated that she is in favour of sharing the water, even while reiterating in a television interviewÂ that the Teesta agreement â€œwill be signed on May 25â€ with or without her consent. She has not elaborated on how she came to know about the date. â€œTeesta hardly has any water in the lean season [November-March] and thus it is very difficult to share water with Bangladesh,â€ the aide said on condition of anonymity.
The other factor is panchayat elections in Bengal in 2018. Ms. Banerjee may not want to annoy thousands of farmers dependent onÂ Teesta water for irrigation in Jalpaiguri, South Dinajpur and Darjeeling.
The Left Frontâ€™s successive Irrigation Ministers had also said they did not want to displease farmers on the banks of Teesta, in many meetings with the Water Resources Ministry of Bangladesh.
The TMC MP, however, conceded the significance of water sharing for Awami League government before the next general election, expected to take place between end of 2018 and early 2019.