Kolkata: Mamata Banerjee's claim of “military coup” stood exposed on Friday when the Army rejected the West Bengal Chief Minister's allegations that its personnel were deployed at toll plazas without informing the state government and were collecting money.
The Army added that the exercise was being conducted in coordination with the Kolkata Police.
"This is being done in coordination with local police authorities. The exercise was earlier planned for November 27 and 28. The dates were changed to November 30 to December 2 on a specific request by the Kolkata Police due to Bharat Bandh called on November 28," said GOC Bengal area (officiating) Maj Gen Sunil Yadav.
Denying “all charges with all contempt”, the officiating GOC Bengal Area said: "Allegations of collection of money by Army personnel are also totally baseless."
Earlier in the day, Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar also said that the Army was conducting a routine exercise in West Bengal and the northeastern states.
On Thursday, Mamata, also supremo of the ruling Trinamool Congress, had alleged that the Army had been deployed without informing the state government.
"This is unprecedented and a very serious matter", she had said.
She had also claimed that the Army personnel were collecting money from vehicles, which they were not supposed to.
Maj Gen Yadav said a similar exercise in Eastern Command was carried out in November 2015 at the same places.
The Maj Gen said that a recce was conducted with two inspectors of the Kolkata Police at toll plaza on November 27 last.
"The issues raised by the police were addressed and were telephonically informed to the police," he said.
The exercise will continue as planned earlier and will end tonight, he said. The Army also released letters written to the state government on the exercise.
"It is happening in nine states now across 80 locations," he said.
"We have our specific targets for data collection. After doing the work for 36 hours our work was done and we had left the toll plaza near Nabanna," he said.
In Parliament, Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar rejected the allegations levelled by TMC that state government was not informed about it.
"This is a routine exercise of the Army which has been continuing since last 15 to 20 years. This exercise was conducted last year too between November 19-21," Parikkar said in Lok Sabha.
"Even this year, the same exercise was being conducted in West Bengal and other northeastern states. This was also done in Uttar Pradesh and Jhakhand," he added.
He also accused the TMC leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of politicising the matter.
Yesterday, a defence spokesperson had said that the Army conducts biennial exercise throughout the country with the aim of getting statistical data about the load carriers that could be made available to the army in case of a contingency.
"There is nothing alarming about this and it is carried out as per government orders", Wing Commander SS Birdi had said.
The exercise gives an estimate about the number of vehicles passing through a certain area that could be tapped during operations, he had said
(With Agency inputs)