Amid frosty exchange of letters between the Bengal government and the Centre over the arrival of two teams in Kolkata to assess lockdown violations in coronavirus-hit districts, another slugfest has broken out between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
A day after the Governor questioned the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Mamata Banerjee, in a strongly worded seven-page letter, accused Dhankhar of repeatedly interfering in the functioning of the administration.
Reminding Dhankhar about Sarkaria Commission’s recommendations on Centre-state relationship, Banerjee said, “It is for you to judge who has flagrantly transgressed constitutional dharma and even basic norms of decency between constitutional functionaries.”
Banerjee said Dhankar had forgotten that she was the “elected chief minister of a proud Indian state” whereas he is nominated. “We felt that the powers of the Governor were so limited, so nominal, his position so ornamental that probably very few would come forward to stand for election,” the letter said.
Hours later, Dhankar shot off a letter condemning the chief minister for her “incommunicado” stance with him, adding that her “constant refrain of governor being ‘nominated’ is lamentable and can be ascribed only to elementary ignorance of the Constitution.” The Governor also alleged “firmly that there has been total failure at your end all through as regards compliance of constitutional prescriptions qua the constitutional head.”
“Ministers of your Government have been at large like ‘loose canons’ in public domain using most demeaning language for the Governor. Your silence unmistakably leads to inference of your approval,” he says in the letter.
Dhankhar and Banerjee have not been on the best of terms since he was appointed as the governor. The war of words over handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated matters.
Earlier in the day, Dhankar, in a tweet, urged Banerjee for seamless coordination and movement of the Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (ICMTs). “Concerned at the rebuff to Central Teams. Red Carpet visit for WHO to East Midnapur and Bishnupur. What is the outcome and gain of WHO visit,” Dhankhar said.
Sources in the CMO said the tweet infuriated Banerjee, following which she decided to shoot a letter to the Governor. “Your tone, tenor and language, which, in the mildest words of extreme moderation, deserve to be characterised as unparliamentary,” she further said.
On Wednesday, the Governor, in a communication to the government, said functioning of the state was not “the fiefdom of an individual to be run in a whimsical manner”.
The Governor also took a critical view of the state’s public distribution system during the lockdown.
“There are no takers for the COVID-19 death figures on account of the series of discrepancies by the state government. The concern of the political parties, the medical fraternity and citizens is well premised. The trust deficit on this count between the government and the medical fraternity as also between the government and the people has attracted national and global focus. The concept of Audit Committee, unheard of so far, has worsened the situation,” Dhankhar said in an interview with The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, for the third day in a row, Banerjee hit the streets of Kolkata and advised people to strictly follow the lockdown norms. Visiting Moulali and Behala areas of Kolkata, Banerjee used a loudhailer from inside a car to call upon people to stop gathering, gossiping, hanging around for the time being and stay put at home.
“Remember that social distancing does not mean you are getting disconnected from your near ones and friends. It is only about physical distancing which will help us win the battle against coronavirus and celebrate the Durga Puja which is still months away. Please don’t come out,” she pleaded.
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