West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar on Thursday met Union Home Minister Amit Shah at the latter’s residence in New Delhi to discuss the law-and-order situation in the state.
The Governor’s statements to the media after the meeting — he claimed West Bengal was now a “police state”, and said he had “witnessed a continual decline of democratic governance” — drew sharp reactions from the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Congress and the CPI(M). The TMC accused Dhankhar of being the BJP’s “loudspeaker”.
Sources said the Governor apprised Shah of the current situation in the state. A tweet on Dhankhar’s official handle read, “West Bengal Governor Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar called on the Union Home Minister Shri Amit Shah today at his residence. Governor Dhankhar was with the Union Home Minister for over an hour and state of affairs and affairs of state in West Bengal were traversed.”
Later, addressing the media at Banga Bhawan, Dhankhar said that while he could not go into the specifics of the meeting, he discussed the “status of democratic institutions and issues of public interest” with the home minister. “I have witnessed a continual decline in democratic governance. Political violence, vendetta is a daily affair. Targeted killings being seen very often. As the constitutional head, I have witnessed it. The greatest challenge is that the police and bureaucracy are being politicised. They are working as foot soldiers of the state government. I have time and again appealed to them that what you are doing is beyond your Constitutional rights…It has become a police state,” he said.
Dhankhar asserted that government officers must remember they are accountable. “No arm of the law will spare anyone,” he said.
The Governor added, “I sent an input to the DGP apprehending threat perception for an association with an MP. But after Manish Shukla was murdered, the chief minister took a stand on behalf of the DGP through a letter. How can a constitutional head have a sound sleep when violence and vendetta are taking place?”
Shukla was a close aide of Barrackpore MP Arjun Singh of the BJP. He was shot dead in front of the party office in North 24 Parganas’ Titagarh area on October 4. The state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has so far arrested three people in connection with the killing.
Dhankar went on to say, “I am committed to ensuring a free, fair, fearless atmosphere…My concern is not who is being elected but my concern is how the election is taking place.”
The Governor told reporters, “You don’t have any idea of what is happening in West Bengal. The law-and-order situation has completely crumbled. Police and bureaucrats are working as political servants of the ruling party. The crime statistics have gone up and al-Qaeda is spreading its fangs in Murshidabad.”
Lashing out at him, TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee said, “The Governor of West Bengal is a loudspeaker of the BJP. Did he go to meet the Home Minister or did he go to meet his BJP leaders? He has done it around 99 times, so this must be chapter 100. Once again he went to Delhi with his garbage of lies.
All across Bengal, the festive occasion was held peacefully. The joy of the festival was shared by crores of people in Bengal in harmony. He is a disgrace to Raj Bhavan.”
State Education Minister and TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee also criticised Dhankhar, asking him to first look at the law-and-order situation in Uttar Pradesh.
“I have never come across a Governor who enjoys staying in the limelight so much. Before speaking about Bengal, he must first look at the law-and-order situation in Uttar Pradesh and talk about it. He is demeaning the Governor’s chair by playing a political role. He is saying that the police are playing a political role in the state. But is he not doing the same? He has no say in the conduct of an election. The Constitution only allows the Election Commission to hold elections. I don’t know why he is so worried but we are definitely worried by his attitude,” Chatterjee added.
Opposition parties Congress and CPI(M) also criticised the Governor.
“Before submitting his report on the law-and-order situation of the state to the Union Home Minister, the Governor should have held discussions with the state home secretary, chief secretary and even with the chief minister. It is indeed a fact that there has been a severe deterioration of the law-and-order situation in the state. At the same time, I don’t know whether the Constitution allows the Governor to speak on the law-and-order situation and to what extent. Even his views on this must be impartial. However, he has not done the right thing today by speaking about the law-and-order situation of the state,” said Congress Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Bhattacharya.
CPI(M) leader Shamik Lahiri said Dhankhar does not know how the dignity of the Governor’s chair should be maintained.
“He is making political statements. What TMC is doing in Bengal, the BJP is doing the same across the country. But he does not speak on such issues,” he added.
The BJP, however, backed the Governor. “Has he said anything that is untrue? The people of the state know what the truth is. The Governor is the custodian of the Constitution when it comes to matters related to the state. Whatever he said is hundred per cent true. There is no room for any controversy on this. Every day, Opposition party workers are being killed and false cases are being lodged against them. Law and order have collapsed here. The Governor is the spokesperson of the common man and addressed issues concerning them,” said state BJP vice-president Joy Prakash Majumdar.
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