Two days after a huge controversy erupted over an audio clip in which Mamata Banerjee was purportedly heard cajoling a BJP leader from Nandigram to help her win the seat, the chief minister Tuesday said that she had indeed called up Pralay Pal as she had got a feedback that he wants to talk to her.
Speaking at an election meeting at Tengua in Nandigram just before the time for campaigning for the second phase of assembly poll came to an end, Banerjee said as a candidate she has every right to call up a voter.
"Yes I had called up this BJP leader in Nandigram. I had got the feedback that someone wants to talk to me. So I talked to him after getting his number. I told him to keep well, to take care of his health. So what is my crime?" the TMC supremo said.
"As a candidate of the constituency I can seek the help of any voter, I can call up anyone. There is no harm in that, it is not a crime," the TMC supremo said.
"But if someone makes the conversation viral that is a criminal offence. Action should be taken against the person who made my conversation viral, not me," Banerjee said adding she will continue to call up people in the same manner in future.
She recounted that in the past she had reached out to people cutting across party lines and even opposition MLAs who had sought her help. At times she even called them back to let them know about the follow-up action without bothering if it would become viral.
Making such conversations viral break trust and faith, she observed.
A huge controversy was created on Saturday amid the first phase polling for 30 assembly seats in West Bengal with BJP releasing an audio clip in which Banerjee was heard cajoling the BJP leader from Nandigram to rejoin TMC and help her win the seat.
"You should help us win Nandigram. Look, I know you have some grievances, but that's due mostly to the Adhikaris who never allowed me to come to either Nandigram or East Midnapore. I will take care of everything henceforth," Banerjee was heard telling Pal.
The family of Suvendu Adhikari, her former protege and now her BJP contest, holds sway in the district.
In the audio clip Pal was heard saying "Didi (Mamata is often referred to as the elder sister) you called me and I am honoured. But I can't betray the Adhikaris as they have stood by me through thick and thin".
He had later told TV news channels that Banerjee had called him up and requested him to return to TMC, a proposal he declined.
"I am now working for BJP and can't betray them," Pal said.
A BJP delegation led by the party general secretary and its Bengal minder Kailash Vijayvargia had met the state's chief electoral officer and handed over the audio tape.
They claimed that Banerjee was using her official position to influence the outcome of the bitterly contested assembly poll.
The ruling TMC had initially questioned the genuineness of the audio tape but later asserted that since Pal was a former TMC leader who had switched over to BJP there was nothing wrong with Banerjee trying to woo him back.
The high-profile Nandigram seat will go to poll on April 1 in the second phase.