Governor and TMC soften stance, Dhankhar to attend Mamata Banerjee’s Kali Puja on Diwali
After weeks of headline-grabbing acrimony between Raj Bhavan and ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders in Bengal, governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said on Saturday that he would attend the Kali Puja at chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s residence with his wife on Sunday and emphasised that he was deeply honoured by the invite.
Earlier, the word had spread that the chief minister invited the governor on October 29 to her residence on the occasion of Bhai Dooj, popularly known as Bhaiphonta in Bengal.
On Saturday, Dhankhar said that the chief minister had invited him and his wife on October 27 to the Kali Puja at her residence.
“The puja at her residence began in 1978. My wife and I are extremely happy. We would visit her residence tomorrow to attend the puja,” said the governor in Barasat, about 30 km away from Kolkata, where he had gone to inaugurate a Kali Puja. “We are privileged and honoured by the invite. We bow our heads,” he added.
On October 21, the governor had written to the chief minister expressing his intention to visit her place on October 29, a day he described as “special for brothers and sisters.”
Mamata Banerjee who was away on a trip to north Bengal at that time wrote to the governor on her return on October 24 inviting him and his wife to join her on the day of Kali Puja.
A statement from Raj Bhavan said the chief minister had clarified that she would be preoccupied with matters of communal harmony on the day of Bhaiphonta.
“It is normal that a governor of a state would visit the residence of the chief minister just as it is normal for government officers to attend a meeting called by a governor,” said Sayantan Basu, one of the general secretaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in a subtle dig that referred to the administrative officers staying away from meetings called by Dhankhar in Siliguri on September 24 and North and South 24 Parganas districts on October 22.
A TMC leader and member of Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet refused to comment on the matter.
However, refusal of the TMC government to allow officers to attend meetings of the governor was not the only reason for a series of face-offs which took place between the ruling party and Dhankhar, who was sworn in on July 30.
The first incident to grab the headlines was on September 19, when Dhankhar had rushed to Jadavpur University, of which he is the chancellor, to rescue Union minister Babul Supriyo when he was manhandled by a group of agitating students for a few hours.
Following that incident, the governor criticised the government for not paying sufficient attention to the Jiaganj triple murder in which a primary school teacher, his pregnant wife and six-year-old son were killed inside their home.
Dhankhar also slammed the government for blacking him out from the live coverage of the Durga Puja carnival on Kolkata’s Red Road on October 11, where he was present for more than four hours.
Trinamool leaders have earlier alleged that the governor has overstepped his role and does not have a bipartisan approach.
The bitterness between Raj Bhavan and the ruling party had gone to such an extent that Sunil Mukhopadhyay, chairman of the TMC-run Barasat municipality in North 24-Parganas district, quit as the chief patron of Taruchaya Club after learning that the organizers of the puja invited Dhankhar to inaugurate it keeping Mukhopadhyay in the dark.
“The governor is not acting like a governor. He is constantly insulting an elected government, and therefore, the people of the state. Since he is coming to inaugurate the puja of Taruchaya Club, I have resigned as its chief patron,” Mukhopadhyay said on Friday.
Incidentally, on August 15, which was also the day of Rakshabandhan, where 64-year-old Mamata Banerjee went to Raj Bhavan and tied rakhi to 68-year-old Dhankar