Bengal governor in fresh face off with govt after officials skip meetings
Less than two weeks after Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar complained of being blacked out of television coverage at a Durga Puja event hosted by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, he headed for another face off with the government on Tuesday, accusing it of “unconstitutional behaviour” and imposing “censorship” after district officials refused to meet him.
Dhankhar lashed out on seeing bureaucrats and local people’s representatives absent from back-to-back interactive sessions he had convened during his visit to the Sunderbans stretched across the districts of North and South 24 Parganas.
“This is utmost disrespect to the highest office of the state and also its people. I find it absolutely unconstitutional,” Dhankhar said after the first session at Dhamakhali had to be called off. “I am not a governor who sits in Governor House. I interact with people and discuss their problems. I am the last person who ever crossed his limits,” he said.
TMC ministers, who, on earlier occasions, accused Dhankhar of overstepping limits, posed to ignore him even as the second interactive session at Sajnekhali could not be held.
“It is not my job to react to the governor’s statements every day. There is an elected government. The head of that government will react if needed,” said TMC secretary general and education minister Partha Chatterjee. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee who is in north Bengal on a five-day tour, did not react.
The magistrates of North and South 24 Parganas districts informed Dhankhar that they needed permission from the government to convene the meetings and all senior state officials were in north Bengal. “This is censorship. Officials may visit north Bengal but a government does not go on a holiday. I am not subordinate to the state government,” said Dhankar.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to take umbrage at the “insult” to the Governor.
“In Bengal, the Governor is repeatedly insulted because the state is run by Mamata Banerjee’s laws,” said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.
Dhankhar has been at loggerheads with the state government over several issues. The latest was over his seating arrangement at a Durga Puja event on October 11. He also came under fire from the TMC for rushing to Jadavpur University on September 19 to ‘rescue’ Union minister Babul Supriyo who had been gheraoed by students. Later that month, Dhankar toured north Bengal and had expressed his desire to chair a similar meeting in Siliguri, but top bureaucrats and elected representatives in the region did not show up.
The CPI (M) described the conflict between Dhankhar and TMC as a “user-friendly mock fight” designed by the BJP central leadership to project its anti-TMC agenda.
“This war of words is an exercise to keep the media engaged. The BJP state leadership does not have any strong personality to consistently run an anti-government, anti-TMC programme,” said CPI (M) Lok Sabha member Md Salim. “Dhankhar is playing that role through his so-called pro-people agenda. His rushing to Jadavpur University was a dramatized version of the mock fight,” Salim, a member of the CPI (M) politburo, added.
Former Supreme Court judge Asok Kumar Ganguly described Dhankhar’s actions as “uncalled for”.
“Such actions by a governor are not called for. This is not usual and does not happen in any state. A governor never acts as a super administrator and asks for reports from government officers. I will not say Dhankhar is overstepping his limits but it is certainly not normal,” Justice Ganguly said.