New Delhi: Slamming West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for protesting over the presence of Armymen at toll plazas, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu on Friday termed the move as a "cheap political stunt”.
Naidu's reaction coems after the Bengal Chief Minister had accused the Centre of deploying Army along a highway toll plaza at the second Hooghly Bridge, about 500 metres from state Secretariat 'Nabanna' in neighbouring Howrah district.
Naidu said an attempt was being made to drag the Army into an "unnecessary controversy".
"This is a routine exercise. It happened last year, it has happened this year. So why suddenly this issue?" Naidu asked.
The Indian Army too denied Trinamool Congress chief's accusation that troops were deployed at toll plazas while keeping the state government in the dark and said the exercise has been conducted in coordination with local police authorities.
"We deny all charges with all contempt," said the officiating General Officer Commanding of Bengal area Major General Sunil Yadav.
He said the exercise was planned earlier for November 27-28, but postponed to November 30-December 2 due to specific request by the Kolkata Police due to a shutdown called on November 28.
Naidu also dismissed as "baseless" the charge that Armymen were collecting toll charges and said this was not good for the country.
On Thursday evening, Banerjee claimed the Army was deployed at Dankuni and Palsit toll plazas on the National Highway 2 (connecting Delhi and Kolkata) without informing her government.