West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s address for the Oxford Union debate on Wednesday afternoon was “rescheduled” barely an hour before the scheduled time. The reason for the rescheduling is not known. The programme was rescheduled by the Oxford Union authorities, it was informed by senior officials.
The state home department took to Twitter at around 1.52 pm on Wednesday to state that “While Hon’ ble Chief Minster of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, was scheduled to address the Oxford Union debating society today afternoon, the organizers have suddenly sought postponement and re- scheduling of the programme at the last moment! The request has been made telephonically from the organisers’ end, citing some unforeseen problems, a brief while ago. The programme with Oxford Union today stands cancelled.”
Government officials had said that the address would take place at around 2.30 pm on Wednesday. It is also learnt that in a letter written to the government, the Oxford Union president Beatrice Barr wrote that they are “unable to go ahead as planned”. Barr wrote to the principal secretary to the CM that “it is extremely unfortunate” and many people from several countries were looking forward to it. “Our audience in Oxford sent a great many questions, and we were all working hard to pull a number of elements together. However, nothing prevails over circumstances, it seems.”
What the circumstances were that led to the sudden calling off of the programme about an hour before it was scheduled to start, was not informed however. The president of the Oxford Union, has said that she would hand over the details to the next person who will take over charge on Friday, and the government office can coordinate regarding a future date.
Had she spoken at the Oxford Union debate, Mamata Banerjee would have been the first Indian woman leader and an administrative head to address the forum. She received the invitation in July this year.
The Oxford Union was founded as a debating society in 1823. World leaders and luminaries such as US president Ronald Reagan, British prime ministers Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, physicist Albert Einstein have been speakers. Students were asked to register and submit their questions online and some of the selected questions were to be answered by Banerjee during her speech.