A night of high drama was capped by Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee staying back at her office, Nabanna, overnight to protest the presence of armymen, allegedly without the state government's permission, at certain toll booths on national highways that run through her state.
"Is this a military coup?" she told reporters at midnight adding that "even for a mock drill, the army has to take the state's permission, and they have not."
Mamata, who does not have the easiest of relationship with the Centre, alleged that this was "an attack on the federal structure" by the Narendra Modi government.
"I am the custodian of common people. So I can't leave them insecure. I will stay put here for the whole night and observe the situation."
"I am the custodian of common people. So I can't leave them insecure. I will stay put here for the whole night and observe the situation," Banerjee told reporters at around 1:30 AM.
She said that armymen were present in 18 other districts in the state.
Sometime before her press meet, journalists went to the toll plaza near Nabanna and found that the armymen were no longer there. A temporary shed set up for them was also removed.
There was no official version of the Army about the removal.
A Defence spokesperson said the Army conducts bi-annual exercise throughout the country with the aim to get statistical data about the load carriers that could be made available to the army in case of a contingency.
Army conducting routine exercise with full knowledge & coord with WB Police. Speculation of army taking over toll plaza incorrect @adgpi— EasternCommand_IA (@easterncomd) December 1, 2016
"There is nothing alarming about this and it is carried out as per government orders", Wing Commander S S Birdi said.
The exercise gives an estimate about the number of vehicles passing through a certain area that could be tapped during operations, he said
"Army conducting routine exercise with full knowledge & coord with WB Police. Speculation of army taking over toll plaza incorrect," the Eastern command said on Twitter.
The Kolkata police, however, said they have raised objection to this Army exercise due to security reasons and traffic problem.
Army excercise at Toll Plaza was objected to in writing by Kolkata Police, citing security reasons & traffic inconvenience.@easterncomd— Kolkata Police (@KolkataPolice) December 1, 2016
"Army exercise at toll plaza was objected to in writing by Kolkata Police, citing security reasons & traffic inconvenience," the city police said on Twitter.
She claimed that people panicked due to deployment of Army at toll plazas and described the act as a "black day".
According to reports, at least six vehicles of military police were spotted at the toll plaza Vidyasagar Setu, a bridge that connects Kolkata to Howrah.
"The Chief Secretary is writing to the Centre. I will approach the President regarding deployment of army without our knowledge," she said. (Inputs from agencies)Suggest a correction