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Saturday, Dec 14, 2019

Bengal governor Dhankhar pays surprise visit to Singur, promises to return; TMC irked

Dhankhar and the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) have been engaged in a war of words over issues of governance and the visit is likely to trigger another such round.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2019 09:26 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Monday paid a surprise visit to Singur.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Monday paid a surprise visit to Singur. (Samir Jana/HT File Photo. )
         

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Monday paid a surprise visit to Singur, where chief minister Mamata Banerjee led a land agitation forcing Tata to withdraw its Nano car project in 2008, but failed to find any government official there.

The governor promised to return on a formal visit.

Dhankhar and the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) have been engaged in a war of words over issues of governance and the visit is likely to trigger another such round.

The first sign was visible on Monday itself with the ruling Trinamool Congress saying the governor has failed to maintain the sanctity of his office.

Singur is a sensitive issue for Mamata Banerjee. Considered the place of her political rebirth after Nano project was withdrawn, the TMC faced its first setback in Singur when the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got a lead in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Singur falls under the Hooghly parliamentary seat, which the BJP won.

Following this, Banerjee had said in the state assembly in July that those who got back their land were reluctant to return to farming. Seeing an opportunity in this, the BJP has been trying to portray Singur as Banerjee’s epic failure since then.

Dhankhar’s surprise trip added a new dimension in this equation.

The governor, while returning to Kolkata from Santiniketan where he had gone to attend the convocation ceremony at Visva Bharati University with President Ramnath Kovind, decided to stop at Singur.

He reached the office of the block development officer (BDO) at 4.30pm but by then the news of his plan had spread and nearly all officers and elected public representatives left the place.

Some clerks greeted Dhankhar and told him that the BDO was on leave and other officers were out on duty.

Dhankhar sat in the BDO’s room for around 15 minutes and local BJP leader Sanjay Pande turned up with some supporters. They complained to Dhankhar that the land plots returned to original owners were not cultivable and Singur had lost both in terms of industry and agriculture.

Dhankhar, however, refrained from making comments on the issues raised by the BJP leader.

“Singur is known to the whole country. If someone (government official) was present, I could have possibly been more informed about Singur. Next time, I will have a planned visit and try to know more about it. I will get myself updated during my next visit and then I will comment on Singur,” he said.

TMC leaders shot back and accused Dhankhar of making political moves.

“I respect the chair of the governor. But, is the person occupying the chair maintaining its sanctity?” said state power minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay.

“Is it a governor’s job to visit block development offices?” Chattopadhyay asked.

Becharam Manna, one of the key leaders of the land agitation, and TMC MLA from the neighbouring Haripal assembly seat, said, “Mamata Banerjee has been taking care of Singur and it is one of the places closest to her heart. People of Singur trust her. How is the governor going to help Singur? While respecting his chair, I express my doubts about his motives.”

Political analysts felt that Dhankhar’s surprise visit to Singur and his proposed trip are likely to have political implications.

“The governor visiting Singur on his own looks like a move aimed at embarrassing the state government,” said Udayan Bandyopadhyay, a Kolkata-based political science professor.