Raj Bhavan has been placed under surveillance "undermining the sanctity" of the institution, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar alleged on Sunday, a development that could plunge his already strained ties with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to newer depths.
Making the startling claim, Dhankhar, who has often crossed swords with the TMC government over a host of issues in the past one year, also alleged lawlessness was prevailing across the state, drawing sharp reactions from Banerjee's party, which said that such acts of surveillance are the domain of his "bosses from Gujarat".
"I would like to tell you all that the Raj Bhavan is under surveillance. It undermines the sanctity of the Raj Bhavan. I will do everything to protect its sanctity,"Dhankhar told a press conference.
"I have initiated a very serious, critical probe into it. Sanctity of Raj Bhavan's functioning has to be kept intact," he said. Without elaborating on what kind of surveillance Raj Bhavan had been put under, Dhankhar said, "As constitutional act, I will not, will never suffer any surveillance of any nature whatsoever. Those who have done it, must pay the price according to rule of law. My internal inquiry will be completed soon enough," he said.
The governor also spoke about confidential documents getting leaked. There was no word from the government on Dhankhar's claim. However, Trinamool Congress MP and spokesperson Mahua Moitra hit out at the governor over the claims.
"Uncleji now claims he and Raj Bhawan premises (are) under surveillance. Believe me, that's something your bosses from Gujarat do better than anyone else -any of us would be novices at it," she said on Twitter.
Expressing "pain" at Mamata Banerjee and her cabinet colleagues for not attending the customary 'At Home' hosted at Raj Bhavan, the governor's official residence, on Independence Day, Dhankhar said that less than 35 distinguished guests had been invited keeping in mind the COVID-19 outbreak.
"It has been very painful for me... I was constantly interacting with the state government through the chief minister, was impressing upon her consistently that the programme will be held totally and strictly following the COVID protocol and keeping the number to bare minimum.
"It would have been befitting for the occasion, it would have been a good tribute to our freedom fighters'sacrifice if the chief minister and members of the executive invited (had attended); it has set a bad precedent," he said. The chief minister had met the governor at Raj Bhavan on Saturday morning after attending the official Independence Day event but did not attend the At Home.
Refuting Dhankhar, Moitra shared a document on Twitter, stating that 96 people were invited to the Raj Bhavan. "Uncle- please at least share the whole truth... Honble CM visited you at Raj Bhavan before your tea party & spent an hour with you. Don't think milling in a crowd at a tea party is wise for either her or you in the midst of Covid19," she tweeted.
Referring to some of his many face-offs with the Mamata Banerjee government since he took over as the governor of West Bengal a year ago, including those at the Assembly, during his visits to universities and the Constitution Day function, he said, these were not the signs of democracy or freedom.
Dhankhar said he had found the gates to the Assembly locked during a scheduled visit. Likewise, the chamber of the vice-chancellor was under lock and key during his visit to a university of which he is the ex-officio chancellor, he said.
On the Constitution Day, he was sixth in queue to address the Assembly, the governor said. "I pray to almighty that good sense prevails,Constitution is respected," he said, adding, "15th August was another painful day for me, political violence and killing was noticed over unfurling of the national flag."
A BJP worker was killed allegedly by TMC supporters at Khanakul in Hooghly district following a tiff over unfurling the Tricolour at the same spot. "We are in a state of lawlessness, already situation is alarmingly worrisome," the governor said.
He said as the governor he has a constitutional right to know about the happenings in the state and that it is the duty of the chief minister to make information available to him.
Dhankhar said there have been five editions of Bengal Global Business Summit, but his questions on how much investment was promised and how much was actually delivered, and about jobs created have not elicited any response from the government.
He said his advice to the civil administration and police to act as public and not political servants and conduct themselves in accordance with law and neutrally, has gone unheeded.
"It is my commitment to the people of West Bengal, I will do everything possible to ensure that democracy in the state flourishes, and democracy will flourish only if there is rule of law," he said.
Dhankhar alleged that the police administration is acting in a manner which is "seriously compromising" the activities of political opponents of the ruling party. He said that even MPs and MLAs were being slapped with criminal cases and "threatened in a manner that will shake anyone".