Barely 24 hours after giving his consent to the land ordinance allowing the state government to take back the Singur Nano factory plot from the Tatas, West Bengal governor MK Narayanan has withdrawn his approval on Friday afternoon.
The letter stating his decision, as dramatic as the announcement of the ordinance itself by chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday evening, landed on chief secretary Samar Ghosh's table between 3:30 and 4pm on Friday.
Raj Bhavan sources confirmed the delivery of the letter to HT.
Bureaucrats in Writers' Buildings told HT the decision was indicated by the governor to the chief secretary Samar Ghosh when he was summoned to Raj Bhavan at 1pm on Friday.
Immediately after it arrived, the chief secretary passed on the letter to the chief minister. Though Mamata Banerjee did not mention the change of mind of Raj Bhavan, she subtly signaled a change of mind of her own at noon.
Senior bureaucrats could not recall any similar incident where any governor had to withhold his consent to an ordinance after according it in the first place.
Perhaps to conceal the government's embarrassment, chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced that the date of the assembly being convened is bring brought forward to June 13, instead of June 24.
"We are not using the ordinance now. We have brought forward the date of which the House would meet. The amendment bill is ready. It would be the only issue that would be discussed that day," announced Mamata Banerjee on Friday evening, about three hours after the governor's letter arrived.
"This move will save us time as the ordinance would have to be passed in the assembly within six months," argued Mamata.
She made no reference to the governor's decision though.
Right since Friday morning controversy began circulating in different sections of the bureaucracy and politicians as to whether there was any pressing urgency for an ordinance when the House would convene only two weeks later.
Senior Parliamentarian and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee and former West Bengal assembly speaker HA Halim told HT the ordinance was invalid.
Writers' Building sources indicated the Governor was not amused primarily on two counts.
First, the chief secretary was not consulted before the ordinance file was sent to Raj Bhavan.
Second, the file allegedly claimed that the proposal was approved by the cabinet, while in reality, what the cabinet meeting on May 20 approved was the decision to return 400 acres of land from the 997.11-acre plot to the 'unwilling' farmers.
"The decision to return the land and the ordinance to tweak the law are not the same," said a bureaucrat familiar with the development.
It was learnt that a team led by industry minister Partha Chatterjee took the proposal to Raj Bhavan on Thursday evening.
With Trinamool Congress-Congress alliance having 227 MLA in the 294-seat assembly, passing an amendment to the Land Acquisition Act will be a cakewalk, but Friday's development won't leave a happy taste in the tongue of the three week-old government.
Returning 400 acre to the 'unwilling' farmers of Singur was the slogan that gave Mamata Banerjee her political rebirth in 2006 and triggered a chain of developments that eventually swept out the 34-year old Left rule in Bengal, the world's longest tenure by any elected Communist government.