India's defence minister Manohar Parrikar has written a letter to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, expressing his pain over the dragging of the army into a controversy.
In his letter, Parrikar said political parties and politicians may have the luxury of making wild and unsubstantiated allegations against each other but one needs to be extremely careful while referring to the armed forces.
"Your allegation, in this regard run the risk of adversely impacting the morale of the country's armed forces and the same were not expected from a person of your standing and experience in public life," he said.
"I take strong exception to your wild assertion," Mamata said in response to Parrikar's letter.
In his letter, Parrikar asserted that the army authorities were forced to put the record straight in the matter by presenting evidence of their communication with the concerned state agencies including rescheduling of the data collection operation on their request.
"I have been deeply pained by your allegations as reported in the media. If only you had enquired with the concerned agencies of the State government, you would have come to know of the extensive correspondence between the Army and the state agencies including the joint inspection of sites carried out by them," he added.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's letter to WB CM Mamata Banerjee, expresses pain over dragging the Army into controversy pic.twitter.com/LVAsdoscsl
He further said that such exercise is being carried out by all formation of the army throughout the country for many years according to the dates convenient to them in consultation with concerned agencies of the state governments. Banerjee had earlier demanded "withdrawal of the army" from the state, alleging it has been done by keeping her government "in the dark".
Trinamool Congress party leader Derek O'Brien said, "Letter has not reached the CM and it's already leaked to media. We will give a befitting reply when it comes."
On December 2, the presence of army personnel at toll plazas in eastern West Bengal state triggered a row with Banerjee remaining at the state secretariat overnight in protest, asking was it an "army coup", drawing a stinging condemnation from the ruling government which said the remark showed her "political frustration".
Accusing the government of "deploying the army" along a highway toll plaza at the second Hooghly Bridge, about 500 metres from the secretariat 'Nabanna' in neighbouring Howrah district, Banerjee had said she would not leave the secretariat till the army was withdrawn from there.