‘Situation far worse’: Dhankar visits Cooch Behar, amps up attack on Mamata
West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Thursday faced protests by a handful of Trinamool Congress (TMC) workers at Dinhata in north Bengal’s Cooch Behar district during his visit to meet victims of post-poll violence despite a strong advisory from chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
The two exchanged strongly-worded letters on Wednesday evening. While Banerjee accused Dhankhar of violating protocols by planning to visit Cooch Behar without the state’s sanction, the latter accused Banerjee of showing no regard for the Constitution.
On his visit, Dhankhar was accompanied by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Cooch Behar Lok Sabha member Nisith Pramanik and the party’s district unit president Malati Rava Roy. They took the governor to some villages where people alleged that TMC workers attacked them and ransacked their homes after the poll results were announced on May 2.
Late on Thursday afternoon, about a dozen TMC workers shouted ‘go-back’ slogans at Dhankhar in Dinhata town. They were driven away from the sidewalk by the local police.
“This is a serious security failure. This is a total collapse of rule of law. I never imagined this would happen,” the governor could be heard telling police officers deployed for his visit. He even got out of his car and stood in the middle of the road.
“A dozen ruling party workers could stop my convoy, with no fear of law and police. Such state of affairs @MamataOfficial ! I had to intervene finding they were determined to involve with my security,” Dhankhar tweeted later in the evening.
Pramanik, who accompanied the governor, contested the Dinhata assembly seat and defeated the TMC’s sitting legislator Udayan Guha by 57 votes. Guha suffered multiple fractures in his right arm and two of his security personnel were injured in the head when they were attacked, allegedly by BJP workers, on May 6. Denying the charge, BJP leaders said the attack was a fallout of infighting in TMC.
Pramanik, however, did not take oath and resigned from the assembly on Wednesday to retain the Lok Sabha seat.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the saffron camp bagged seven of north Bengal’s eight seats. In the assembly polls in north Bengal, the BJP won 30 of the region’s 54 assembly seats.
On Thursday, black flags were shown to Dhankhar at Sitalkuchi where four villagers were killed in firing by Central Industrial Security Force personnel while polling was in progress on April 10. Dhankhar met the family of a young man who was murdered in Sitalkuchi on that day.
“The law and order situation in this region is far worse than what I had thought,” Dhankhar said at a press conference in Cooch Behar’s Dinhata town in the evening. “The chief minister instigated her workers against the central forces. She also threatened to teach people a lesson after the central forces left Bengal. All this puts democracy in danger,” said Dhankhar.
Reacting to the TMC demonstrations, Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh told a news channel that Cooch Behar resembles war-hit Syria. “Not even the governor can move freely in the region,” he said.
Leaders of the TMC accused Dhankhar of being partisan.
“The governor is behaving like a BJP cadre. He has violated all sections in the Constitution that define a governor’s role,” said TMC Lok Sabha member Saugata Roy.
In his letter to the chief minister on Wednesday which announced his intention to go ahead with his Cooch Behar visit, Dhankhar had cited “inputs of rampant loot, arson, killings, rape and other horrendous acts against those in opposition to your party” to explain his decision.
This was in reply to Banerjee’s letter in which she wrote that by unilaterally deciding to visit Cooch Behar, the governor was going to violate “well-established norms of protocol” and requested him to “desist from abrupt decisions with regard to field visits.”
The BJP bagged 18 of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 but could win only 77 assembly seats against the TMC’s 213. Elections were held in 292 of the state’s 294 assembly seats as two candidates for two seats in the Murshidabad district died of Covid-19. Polls in these constituencies will be held later. Polls will also be held at Khardah in North 24 Parganas as the winner, TMC leader Kajal Sinha, died of Covid-19.
In addition to these three seats, the Dinhata seat in Cooch Behar and the Shantipur seat in Nadia district will also go to the polls again. Like Pramanik, Jagannath Sarkar, the BJP Lok Sabha member who won the Shantipur seat, also resigned from the assembly on Wednesday.