‘CM can’t be on street protesting against law’: Bengal governor
Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankar said, “I am not at loggerheads with Mamata ji. The government is at loggerheads with me.”Updated: Jan 25, 2020 06:13 IST
The governor of West Bengal, Jagdeep Dhankhar, spoke to Sunetra Choudhury about his interactions with chief minister Mamata Banerjee, the right to protest, and his recent comments about nuclear power in Arjuna’s arrows. Edited excerpts:
Have you been at loggerheads with CM Mamata Banerjee?
I am not at loggerheads with Mamata ji. The government is at loggerheads with me. I’m doing all I can do to get mamata (motherly care) from Mamata ji. If you can give one instance where this governor has done so, I’ll be happy. So this narrative is not accurate.
We are used to seeing governors as constitutional heads but not hearing from them so much. You are very active, you even call meetings of political parties on bills, so have completely changed the role of governor?
All my actions have been dictated by the limitations set by the Constitution and the obligations tasked on me. Calling a meeting of leaders of legislature parties in relation to the two bills (lynching and SC/ ST commission) was because, despite my repeated efforts, requisite inputs were not coming. The only course I could take is to involve the legislature, so I am discussing it with those who are concerned. The lynching bill representation was made by Communist parties. So it is well within norms.
You accept that some governors -- such as you, Arif Mohammed Khan and Tathagatha Roy -- are changing the norm?
Why are you putting me with very distinguished people? I am a modest man.
If you can point out even a single instance that this governor has acted beyond the expected line, I will revisit my actions and take correctional steps. No one has said I have taken any step which is beyond the constitution. On the contrary, the (Bengal) government has taken a lot of steps that are painful, hurting, demeaning and lowering the dignity of a governor -- ‘governor is a tourist’, ‘governor should meet people that have our approval’ .
Would you ever want that the governor goes to the assembly after notifying the speaker, and the gate is closed? I have not been given any staff that I am entitled to. Not only that, the CM is yet to brief me even once. Under the rules, she is supposed to do that.
But we see pictures of you with her, even recently when the Prime Minister was here?
When he came, she participated in one programme. After the PM left, we spent some time together. She’s absolutely, disarmingly polite, and I’m yet to come across a person who would have the courage to hate her as she’s so very polite.
What did you talk about?
She said several things, to the extent that ‘the shawl which I have brought should only be given to Mrs Dhankhar’. I said, ‘Ma’am don’t bother about it. it shall be done and duly reported to you also.’
But can you have a state of affairs that the funds of the government running into crores are used for advertisements propagating a campaign against the law of the land? It is a very serious matter.
You are the chancellor of Jadavpur University and a lot of students across the country are protesting. What is your view on a student speaking against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill during her convocation?
Why and how and what method students choose is not my concern. My concern is that if decorum of a programme is upset, this is not wholesome. Educational institutions have to be temples of education. Jadavpur University has taken more than century to rise to its top level. Protest by all means - but creating chaos, violence, and bringing down reputation is a matter of concern.
Where do you stand on the issue of Kerala assembly passing a resolution against CAA?
I will cross the bridge when it comes here. So far nothing is on my table. I shall not react to something that’s hypothetical. My point is the elected CM cannot be on street against law that emanates from Parliament.
Then how should she protest?
Protest is a right. But an elected CM cannot do it on the street. The Indian Constitution gives a proper process. In 2014, Parliament passed the judicial appointments commission bill; Supreme Court undid it. The only way in a democracy is to take that recourse. If CMs start going to the streets against their oath, can governors take to the streets to protest? The right to protest is there, but it isn’t available to all. Anyone can be involved with agitations, but it can’t be government servants.
You made comments about how there was nuclear power during the Mahabharata which created a major controversy. Do you stand by that?
I believe that we had a great past, our great past was marked by a very great success. I don’t subscribe to those who consider Ram a mythological figure. They may file affidavits in the SC but I take him as someone we had seen earlier. The point I am making is that we had a great power in our scientific region. If you go through the shlokas, you will see that we had the power, we were supreme.
The point that scientists make is that in ancient times, the technology or science wasn’t available.
They have their point of view. I’m saying potency was there. Arjun’s power had that potency. Mahabharat’s actual scenes, the power generated by Arjun’s arrow. I haven’t invented the udan khatola (flying machine) but for thousands of years, we have seen it being written.
Are you saying the udan khatola is real?
I believe in that. And I believe that this land has seen in reality both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. There may be those who don’t believe, but those who are with me are also not small in numbers. I believe it as a matter of fact. Not long ago people didn’t believe in Ram but why has Supreme Court now decided? Why did Archeological Survey of India give those details? Just imagine. Let us learn to take pride in our past. We were a great scientific power thousands of years ago, and I believe and take pride in that.