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Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar hits back as TMC MPs seek his removal

The MPs wrote that the Governor has “failed to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and repeatedly breached law declared by the Supreme Court” while “openly supporting a political party”.

Written by Dipankar Ghose | New Delhi | December 31, 2020 2:42:57 am
Bengal distancing itself from rule of law: Jagdeep DhankharWest Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar. (File)

Five Trinamool Congress MPs, from both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, have written to President Ram Nath Kovind, demanding the removal of West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar for “serious breach of oath of office”. The MPs wrote that the Governor has “failed to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and repeatedly breached law declared by the Supreme Court” while “openly supporting a political party”.

Meanwhile, speaking to the media in Kolkata, Dhankhar, who has been locked in a seemingly interminable battle with the Mamata Banerjee government, shot back, asserting his duty is to ensure that people get the opportunity to exercise their franchise without fear. “Free and fair elections without fear are not held (in the state),” he said, adding that it does not concern him for whom the people vote, but it is his duty to make sure that they get to exercise their franchise without any intimidation. He also urged the government machinery to be neutral during the West Bengal Assembly elections.

The Governor denied the TMC’s allegations and said he was prepared to undergo any test to prove his neutrality. “I am miles away from politics. I appeal to them to take my agnipariksha and check if I ever did anything antithetical. All my steps are influenced by constitutional responsibilities,” he said. “Also, I request Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to respond to my letters. Even if you don’t have any answer, then say that at least.”

The BJP weighed in, with the party’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya remarking that the “TMC is doing this as it is scared” as the “Governor is acting within his constitutional parameters as the head of the state”. “I don’t think the TMC’s action of approaching the President for the removal of the Governor will have any impact. The President will go by his own understanding.”

The letter, signed by MP’s Sudip Bandopadhyaya, Derek O Brien, Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, Kalyan Banerjee, Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar stated that Dhankhar has “been inducing divisive politics just because ruling parties at the state and at the Centre are political opponents”. “Some of the recent words/utterances/tweets/media briefings directed against the West Bengal government, Hon’ble Chief Minister and All India Trinamool Congress reflect flagrant disregard to constitutional norms, proprieties and ethics. Some remarks are provocative and incite action which could lead to law and order problems,” it stated.

Citing multiple judgments of the Supreme Court that lay out the role of the Governor, the MPs said, “Such tendencies and inclinations on the part of the Constitutional Head of the state to openly support a political party strikes at the very root of federalism which the Supreme Court has held to be a basic structure of India’s constitution.”

Even as the BJP, and indeed Dhankhar have attacked the Mamata Banerjee government for a “worsening law and order situation”, the MPs wrote that West Bengal has witnessed “663 political murders between 2001 and 2011” whereas this, according to the NCRB, came down to 113 during the Mamata Banerjee-led government from 2011 to 2019. The Maoist-infested Jangal Mahal areas of South Bengal districts bordering Jharkhand and Odisha were also “freed from the extremist politics of annihilation through administrative initiatives and political process ensured” by the government since 2011. The unending violent situation in the hills of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong, Mirik and part of Dooars was brought under control, they said.

“All this notwithstanding, Home Minister Amit Shah spread canards against the government of West Bengal during his visits… in November and December. His comments… were echoed and amplified by the Governor… (it) is not only unprecedented, unwarranted and uncalled for, but also smacks of his hypocrisy to act under the orders of his masters in Delhi. He shows no will to protect or defend the Constitution,” they wrote.

Days after Dhankhar tweeted that the West Bengal Police had a “de facto boss” in Surajit Kar Purkayastha, a retired police officer who serves as State Security Adviser of West Bengal, and that the DGP had “capitulated”, the MPs wrote that the Governor “had gone to the extent of naming and defaming senior officers”. “Dhankhar has also not spared the State Legislature. He is sitting tight and refuses to sign a number of Bills passed by the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. Not only is he not signing the Bills, he is even asking for explanations from the Hon’ble Speaker.” —With inputs from ENS Kolkata

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