Kolkata: The relationship between newly appointed Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar and the Mamata Banerjee administration hit a new low on Tuesday after senior officials failed to attend an administrative meeting at Dhamakali in Bengal’s Basirhat area.
Dhankar hit back at the government and said that the officials' reluctance to join the meeting was “unconstitutional” and an “attempt at censorship”.
The Trinamool Congress top brass has already accused Dhankar, a former Supreme Court advocate and an ex-Rajasthan MP who joined BJP in 2003, over his “partisan approach”, making “politically biased statements” and “overstepping the Constitutional jurisdiction” by indulging in “political gimmicks”.
Expressing his “deep hurt” at the leader’s accusations, the Governor recently tweeted saying, “Expressions of your viewpoint is a golden gift of the Constitution and its intolerance in any form is destructive of democracy. Let’s learn decent ways to disagree (sic) one another. Intolerance by structured mechanism is painfully worrying.”
The rift between the state government and the Governor started on September 19 when Governor Dhankar, less than two months after taking charge as the state’s Constitutional figurehead, landed up at Jadavpur University to ostensibly “rescue” union minister Babul Supriyo who was allegedly manhandled by agitating students.
Dhankar, who is the ex-officio Chancellor, was stranded in the campus for over an hour and a half. While Kolkata Police managed to whisk away both him and Supriyo, even as ABVP activists allegedly vandalised the campus. Trinamool leader and state education minister Partha Chatterjee called Dhankar’s move “unfortunate and shocking”.
Chatterjee alleged that the Governor acted in disregard of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s requests to not go there and give the government a little time to bring the situation under control. Dhankar, however, maintained that he had had little choice since the agitation had reached a critical point.
Then, less than a week after the incident, on September 24, Dhankar again expressed his disappointment at the state’s administration’s “lukewarm” response to his maiden visit to the north Bengal town of Siliguri. While most political parties responded to the Raj Bhavan’s invite for a meeting with the Darjeeling district administration and people’s representatives, local Trinamool MPs and MLAs gave it a miss.
"I am the constitutional head, I need respect. The respect is not for Jagdeep Dhankar. I would have been happy and delighted to be in Siliguri if it could have been different," the governor rued after the Trinamool snub.
However, the most poignant outburst from Dhankar came on October 15 when he alleged that he had been intentionally blacked out by the media during a visit to a Durga Puja immersion carnival that was being held by the state government.
The cameras for the programme had been placed by a government agency, which then distributed the feed to private television channels. The seats for the Governor and his wife had allegedly been positioned in such a way that they fell in the blind spot.
Dhankar said that he had been “humiliated, deeply pained and disturbed” and called it “reminiscent of the Emergency period”. The Trinamool Congress’s chief whip at the Bengal Assembly, Tapas Roy, immediately hit back and called Dhankar a “publicity monger”.
In his three-month tenure as Governor, Dhankar has repeatedly questioned the law and order situation in the state, which has only irked Mamata Banerjee and her cohort. From the students agitation at Jadavpur University to the sensational triple murder case at Jiagunj in Murshidabad, which the BJP alleged had political links, Dhankar’s criticism of the state administration has remained agonizingly public for the government.
Questions were, therefore, raised over his silence at the alleged vandalism by ABVP members at JU and about the police’s initial findings which indicated that the Murshidabad killings did not have any political links.
This is also why the Centre’s unprecedented decision to accord Z category VIP security cover to the Governor and transfer the charge from the Kolkata Police to Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on October 17 met with flak from the ruling party in the state.
Close on the heels of these confrontations, the thwarted administrative meetings at North and South 24 Parganas will now widen the cracks between the Raj Bhavan and the state secretariat, Nabanna. The collision course would only jeopardise the functioning of the government, and further affect the relations between the Centre and the state in the run up to the high voltage elections of 2021.