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22 Jun 2017

Mamata blames Centre for the situation in the hills: takes a walk in The Hague

Devadeep Purohit in The Hague, TT, Mamata Banerjee has to walk - be it a misty morning in Darjeeling or a sunny day in the Dutch city. And she also has to talk while walking - be it on pebbled European streets or potholed patches back home - and check on her iPhone how much distance she has covered and the calories burnt.
Distance covered: 10km
Time taken: Less than two hours with a 30-minute coffee break

Issues discussed: An entire gamut - ranging from the presidential elections back home to marketing strategy for an FMCG company.
"I have covered 9.7km.... Will do another 300 metres and then go back to the hotel. Will walk again in the evening," the Bengal chief minister told her security personnel around 11.10am before picking up speed to cover the last 300 metres.
The weather in the Dutch administrative town was pleasant, with the morning temperature hovering between 24 degrees Celsius and 26 degrees Celsius, the humidity 41 per cent and the average wind speed 18km/hr.
Mamata had started out two hours ago. The chief minister, who is health conscious, walks between 12km and 15km every day. In The Hague, she was accompanied by her security staff and businessmen Umesh Chowdhary of Titagarh Wagons, Sanjeev Puri of ITC, Mayank Jalan of Keventer Agro and Mehul Mohanka of Tega Industries.
Around 9am, her entourage was preparing to dig into luchi and chholar daal, rustled up by an expatriate Bengali cook, for breakfast when Mamata came down from her ninth-floor hotel room and said: "First burn and then earn (calories)."
The walk began with Mamata reminding her companions to follow traffic rules, but the politician in her took over soon and the topics kept changing.
"Today is World Music Day.... I will have to tweet, where I will mention that music unites people and it doesn't have any geographical boundaries," the chief minister said when one in the group reminded her that today was International Day of Yoga, an event Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to champion.
Mamata's stress on music's ability to unite people and its appeal beyond geographical boundaries made it clear she was referring to the Centre's perceived divisive politics.
When the group reached the International Court of Justice, Mamata halted briefly to click pictures of the iconic building.
"The case between India and Pakistan on the release of (former naval officer) Kulbhushan Jadav is being fought here," she said before heading towards the city centre.
A quiet white building decorated with trees on the way caught Mamata's attention and she said: "Look, there is a Pakistani flag.... Oh, this seems to be the Pakistan embassy."
Soon, she spotted the flags of some other countries and realised that the area was the diplomatic enclave of the city. Mamata recalled Chanakya Puri in New Delhi and waxed eloquent on her love for the area.
The chief minister soon switched to political issues in India - the Darjeeling unrest and the presidential polls.
"There are two important meetings tomorrow.... The all-party meeting in Siliguri to discuss the situation in the hills and the Opposition parties' meeting on the President's election," she said.
Told that the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha would not attend the all-party meeting, Mamata said she was aware of it and could do little about it. A few minutes of BJP bashing followed as she blamed the Centre for the situation in the hills.
Then she started discussing the prospects of the possible Opposition candidates for the presidential polls and how the Opposition parties can be brought together to "defeat" the BJP nominee - Ram Nath Kovind.
"Meira Kumar, look at her credentials - a former Lok Sabha Speaker, IFS officer, daughter of Jagjivan Ram and a Dalit.... She has her own network. There are others like Sushil Kumar Shinde," she said.
Later in the day after a long telephone conversation with someone in Hindi, Mamata told journalists that Meira Kumar was the Opposition's choice.
Halfway through the walk, her companions began feeling tired and Mamata sat down at a roadside café for them to catch their breath.
As the aroma of freshly baked items and coffee filled the air, Mamata began holding forth on FMCG companies and their products.
She complemented Sanjeev Puri for ITC's range of products and advised him to launch more beauty products and use the company's sales and distribution channel to reach more customers.
She shared with film producer Shrikant Mohta ideas on storylines and lyrics.
A convoy with four horses pulling a chariot passed by and someone said it was of the King's.
"Let's go.... There is a business meet at 3.30pm. I will have to get ready," Mamata said and the team began walking back to the hotel.
Another half an hour's brisk walk and she was back in front of the hotel. A quick glance at the iPhone revealed she hadn't met her target and she set out to complete 10km.
On accomplishing the mission, Mamata returned content and settled in her room.
She was out again around 2pm as delegates started trickling in for the business meet that the Bengal government organised with VNO-NCW, the biggest industry association in the Netherlands.
Several industrialists from Bengal - Purnendu Chatterjee of Haldia Petrochemicals, Harsh Neotia of Gujarat Ambuja, Umesh Chowdhury, Mayank Jalan and Mehul Mohanka - spoke at the meet to pitch for Bengal as an investment destination.
Hans D. Boer, president of VNO-NCW, promised to send a chamber delegation to the next edition of the Bengal Global Business Summit.
"I am happy.... The day was productive," Mamata signed off.

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