‘Funds cut, might serve only black tea’: Bengal Guv attacks Mamata Banerjee
Throwing a volley of charges against West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, governor Jagdeep Dhankhar alleged on Monday that she has breached the Constitution, turned Bengal into a police state and ordered electronic surveillance on politicians, businessmen and the media.
Dhankhar, during a 90-minute speech at a media conference, also alleged that fund allocation for the Raj Bhawan has been cut to such extent that guests might be served only black tea in future.
Though he had made some of these allegations in the recent past, Dhankhar went a step ahead and took the acrimonious relationship between the Raj Bhawan and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government a notch higher. He said that by not replying to his repeated queries on several issues, the chief minister has breached the Constitution. “Despotic tendencies can be seen prominently,” he said.
Dhankhar also shot off a long letter to Banerjee, who was in north Bengal on a three-day tour.
The letter was in connection with an earlier one in which he had asked Virendra, the director general of police (DGP) to give him a report on the law and order situation. Dhankhar said the DGP did not reply but the chief minister sent him a long letter on September 26, questioning his authority.
“Sadly, Madam Chief Minister, you have chosen to take untenable alibi of Constitutional provisions, calling the Governor executive nominee, a mere spectator, to explain abdication of core police responsibilities by the DGP. This was least expected from you on such sensitive aspect. As Governor I am neither a post office nor a ‘rubber stamp’. I am stakeholder not in politics but surely in governance, to ensure it conforms to constitutionalism. State of affairs concerning law and order, health and finance could not have been more alarming as of now…”, the governor wrote in a letter to the CM.
“To shield those, who need to be held accountable, signals death-knell of democratic governance - a situation staring us in the face, and now for long. Surely Madam Chief Minister, this is not in consonance with your oath that ordains you to ‘bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established,” Dhankhar wrote.
“While contention of Governor’s role under the Constitution can and should be debated, Madam Chief Minister, is it appropriate for the Chief Minister, answerable to her own people, to so justify her DGP’s inactions and omissions ! Your defence of DGP vindicates my stand that governance in the State is on ‘police crutches’ and signals public admission of this by you,” the letter said.
“….what is amiss if the Governor wants the DGP to elaborate and explain the deteriorating law and order in the wake of political violence, political vendetta, ruthless quelling of opposition, incessant extortion by the syndicates on free run and frequent hurling of bombs. Maoism raising its head and terror outfits making state their haven add to our worries,” he added.
The governor requested that he be provided with facts on all police cases registered since 2016.
“Your favouring me with facts on all the FIRs registered since 2016 provided to the NCRB would be eye opener ! Since DGP is not imparting details of the crimes in the State, I will rely on NCRB data on the State crime, and come point by point on political violence, false cases under POSCO, NDPS, Arms Act etc. against political opponents, electronic surveillance on anyone who dares against powers that be, tolabazi (extortion), corruption cases and systematic santras (terror). I will also come point by point how and why a case was registered or not registered, with manipulated incriminations, under the dictate of powers that lack legal authority or sanction,” wrote Dhankhar.
Suggesting that electronic surveillance had made people feel insecure, Dhankhar wrote, “People now prefer to speak on FaceTime. If they do not, then are advised to. Our state has become a FaceTime state. Does this indicate safe and secured environment? Answer is obvious- No. If not DGP, who then will answer to it? Fact is no response is forthcoming from both sides.”
“The biggest question, Madam Chief Minister, in our State is: Whether the police are doing their duty as prescribed by the law? And, if the political executive itself is seen as forcing the police to behave like party worker, then who should decide, whether the police are right or wrong? Can the chief of the police of the state hide behind his Chief Minister for his inactions, omissions and failure to conform to law and conduct? Can or should it be allowed? Would it not be a ‘murder of democracy?’ I am not in doubt - all this cannot be countenanced in a system accountable to Constitution,” Dhankhar continued.
The governor spoke of the “alarming ground reality” and urged the chief minister to travel incognito to experience it first hand.
“There can be no denying the explosive decline in situation of law and order in the State. Going by the recent revelations of terror modules functioning, the situation is now even beyond ‘cliff hanging’. Just for a change get into objective mode, open your window and traverse State incognito, you’ll find that every reflection by me is authentic mirroring of pathetically alarming ground reality,” wrote the governor.
Seeking a meeting with Banerjee, Dhankhar wrote, “Sensitive issues, that I do not seek to put in print, for fear of sensationalism, as indicated to you, will be shared once you, conforming to constitutional prescriptions, spare time to brief me. I have as a matter of fact underplayed the glaring enormity that ridicules democratic governance.”
Moving to arrest the narrative, TMC leaders and ministers refuted Dhankhar’s statements.
“Dhankhar referred to Article 167 of the Constitution at the media conference, saying its provisions had been breached by the chief minister. Article 167 says the governor can seek information from the government but does not specify any deadline for the chief minister to reply. The constitution says that executive powers of the governor shall be executed through the officers of the state. The governor does not have any executive power of his own,” said Saugata Roy, TMC Lok Sabha member and party spokesperson.
“The governor is distorting the spirit of the Constitution for his own convenience to satisfy the party in power at the Centre. He could have done the same as state president of the BJP,” quipped panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee.
CPI(M) lawmaker and leader of the Left parties in the assembly, Sujan Chakraborty, however did not criticise Dhankhar. “He was speaking on behalf of the people of the state,” said Chakraborty.
Congress legislator and leader of the opposition in the assembly, Abdul Mannan, also supported Dhankhar. “Banerjee is questioning the governor’s authority because an autocratic leader cannot tolerate criticism,” he said.