Black flags and angry chants of "Modi, go back" greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he arrived on a 2-day visit in Kolkata on Saturday but nicety was not abandoned as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee shared dais with him while remaining insistent on annulment of the new citizenship law.
Banerjee, arguably the most bitter critic of the prime minister on the CAA, met him at Raj Bhavan, after deciding not to receive him at the airport, and also shared stage at a colourful programme to celebrate 150 years of the Kolkata Port Trust.
"I told him that we are against CAA, NRC and NPR. I told him there should be no discrimination among masses and no citizens are left out and tortured," she told journalists after meeting Modi at Raj Bhavan.
Moments later, she was present at an anti-CAA protest nearby. Banerjee, who called her meeting with Modi a "courtesy visit", said the prime minister had asked her to come to New Delhi to discuss the vexatious issues.
An hour or so later, Modi and Banerjee were seated on stage at the Millennium Park, savouring a delightful dance performance on the Hooghly river as the iconic Howrah Bridge was aglow in hues of red, purple, yellow and green light.
The politically significant meet, which had exposed chinks in the opposition unity, came just two days after the TMC chief had declared to boycott an opposition meeting called by Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on January 13 over the JNU violence, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and other "anti-people" policies of the Centre.
The meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Banerjee drew sharp reactions from the Congress and CPI(M), which said Trinamool Congress' "double standard" is now exposed.
The Trinamool Congress leadership denies claims of "political match-fixing" and said the meeting between the two leaders was just a government-to-government meet. The brief meeting between the two had kicked off a fresh storm as Left students activists protested against her and demanded an explantion from her for diluting the fight against the CAA.
Banerjee tried to clarify by saying the decision to meet the PM was her "constitutional obligation" and tried to pacify the protesting students. "We have been protesting from the day one against CAA. The issue of both of us is the same. So please don't deviate from it. I would request you all to protest in a democratic way," she said while trying to pacify the protesting students.
Modi arrived in Kolkata amidst protests across the city against CAA. The protesters burnt effigies of the PM and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for bringing in a "divisive law". Several organisations, both political and civil, staged protests at every nook and corner of the state.
Hundreds of protesters holding black flags demonstrated outside the Kolkata airport gate number one crossing. The police had put up a barricade to prevent them from crossing over to the airport side. Modi was greeted by Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, state Municipal Affairs Minister Firhad Hakim, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh and other party leaders at the airport.
He took a helicopter to the Royal Calcutta Turf Club and from there went to the Raj Bhawan, as protesters had blocked several major crossings with an intention to show him black flags.
Later at Raj Bhawan, Modi met a delegation of state BJP leadership. In the evening, Modi dedicated to the nation four refurbished heritage buildings of the city - the Old Currency Building, the Belvedere House, the Metcalfe Hall and the Victoria Memorial Hall.
After inaugurating a sound and light show at the iconic Howrah Bridge from the Millenium Park on the banks of the Hooghly, Modi took a boat ride to the Belur Math, where he met monks and interacted with Ramakrishna Mission president Swami Smaranananda and retired for the day.
On Sunday, the PM is scheduled to attend a prayer meeting at Belur Math on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, founder of the Ramakrishna Mission. Modi will also participate in the sesquicentenary celebrations of the Kolkata Port Trust on Sunday.
The prime minister and the chief minister will share dais at the programme at Netaji Indoor Stadium on Sunday. West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar will also be present.