West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's much-anticipated participation at the prestigious Oxford Union Debate in the UK was cancelled, hours before it was scheduled to begin, after the debating society sought to postpone it citing “unforeseen circumstances”. The address was to be held virtually, as per reports. At the time of writing, no clear reason has been made available by either the Oxford Union or Mamata Banerjee's camp for the sudden postponement.
Banerjee was set to become the first Indian woman chief minister to address the 'The Oxford Union Debate', but the organisers around 1.50 pm on Wednesday requested that the programme be rescheduled, stating that "nothing prevails over circumstances sometimes".
The West Bengal Home Department took to Twitter to announce the same.
TMC sniffs 'political pressure'
The TMC leadership, infuriated over the development, claimed that "political pressure" might have forced the organisers to take such a call.
"This is unprecedented. A programme planned months ahead was cancelled a few minutes before the event was scheduled to start. This is not the first time that such a thing has happened. Earlier, too, her programmes at international fora and foreign visits have been cancelled at the eleventh hour.
"All sorts of pressure were applied from the highest level to stop Mamata Banerjee's address. We condemn such politics," a senior TMC parliamentarian told news agency PTI on condition of anonymity.
In 2018, Banerjee's programme at Chicago to mark Swami Vivekananda's birth anniversary, scheduled visit to China and her address at St Stephen's college in New Delhi were cancelled, one after another.
Oxford Union Debating Society offers "sincerest apologies"
Offering its "sincerest apologies", The Oxford Union Debating Society said in a mail to the government, "Our audience sent a great many questions, and we were all working hard to pull a number of elements together. However, nothing prevails over circumstances sometimes; it seems."
"I sincerely hope that the Hon'ble Chief Minister will understand and might honour us with her esteemed presence at the earliest possible convenience to you. With your permission, I will pass your details onto my successor, to whom I hand over this Friday," the mail said.
According to reports, was expected to talk about the welfare schemes launched by her government, such as 'Kanyashree', 'Rupasree', 'Krishak Bandhu' and 'Duare Bangla' during the address. Banerjee, reportedly, received the invitation in July.
Founded in 1823, The Oxford Union has featured several world leaders and luminaries as speakers, including US presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Regan, British prime ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, physicist Albert Einstein and spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
(With PTI inputs)