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Senior officials skip meet, Governor asks if there is ‘censorship’ in Bengal

The officials, the Governor said, had told him that permission to attend the meeting with him is not available as all senior government officials are presently in north Bengal, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is on an administrative tour.

Written by Atri Mitra | Dhamakhali (basirhat) | Published: October 23, 2019 5:07:13 am
west bengal, governor mamata face off bengal, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, trinamool congress, mamata banerjee Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar with Basirhat SDO Vivek Vasmi (left) and North 24 Parganas ADM (General) Sudhir Kuntham at Dhamakhali zilla parishad guest house (Express Photo: Partha Paul)

After finding senior administrative officials of North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas missing at a meeting called by him, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Tuesday accused the Trinamool Congress government of “unconstitutional behaviour” with him and wondered whether some “sort of censorship” was in place.

Dhankar, who was visiting Dhamakhali in Basirhat, had called a meeting of senior administrative officials of the two districts on Tuesday as part of his visit. The officials, the Governor said, had told him that permission to attend the meeting with him is not available as all senior government officials are presently in north Bengal, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is on an administrative tour.

As senior officials and locals MPs and MLAs did not turn up at the meeting, an upset Governor hit out the state government. “I am not the subordinate. Then, why necessary permission (by the officers) would be needed? This is unconstitutional. They are saying senior officers are busy with the Chief Minister’s meeting in north Bengal. If Chief Minister (Mamata Banerjee) is in a meeting, will the whole government be on a holiday? This is very unfortunate. There should be a free flow of information,” Dhankar told mediapersons here.

“I don’t think this scenario will continue. All the stakeholders will assess them and will change their mindset,” the Governor added.

Although a guard of honour was accorded to him at Dhamakhali in North 24 Parganas, none of the senior government officials of the district attended his meeting. Basirhat Sub-Divisional Officer Vivek Vasmi, Additional District Magistrate (General) North 24 Parganas Sudhir Kuntham and Additional SP Chandan Ghosh were the only senior officers present at the venue. While Opposition MLAs had come to attend the meeting, none of the ruling legislators came. Later, an angry Governor cancelled the meeting.

At Sajnekhali in South 24 Parganas, too, none of the senior government officials or public representatives came for the meeting.

“I am astonished to receive the letters from the district officials in which they have expressed their inability to attend the meetings, that too four days after my intimation. I do not know whether some sort of censorship is in place in West Bengal… Despite this, I will continue my tour of the districts,” PTI quoted Governor as saying.

He also mentioned that the District Magistrate had sent a letter stating that “state government’s’’ permission was necessary to call the participants of the meeting.

This was not the first time that senior district administrative officials skipped the meeting with the Governor. During his north Bengal tour in September, Dhankhar had expressed his desire to chair a similar meeting in Siliguri, but top bureaucrats and elected representatives of the region gave it a miss.

Recalling the Siliguri meeting, the Governor said on Tuesday, “I faced a similar situation in Siliguri. The District Magistrate in Siliguri said that he was ill. Here, North 24 Parganas DM also said that she (Chaitali Chakraborty) was ill. It is very unfortunate, wherever I go, the DM falls ill. I don’t know whether it is an alibi or not. I can only pray for their early recovery.”

On the heels of Dhankhar’s remark, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargia said that the way the Governor was being “insulted” by the state government was “unprecedented”.

“There are some constitutional norms, which every state government has to follow. But from the behaviour that Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar faced, it seems the Mamata Banerjee’s government in West Bengal has created a new set of rules and does not abide by the country’s Constitution… As per Constitution, the Governor is the head of the government of that state. If the Governor in West Bengal has to take permission from the state government (to hold meetings with district administration), then it is established that the country’s law is not applicable in Bengal. Here Mamataji’s law is applicable. It is unconstitutional to show disrespect to the Governor every day. We strongly condemn it,” Vijayvargiya added.

State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said also hit out at the TMC government. “A state government cannot function without the head of the state. This is unconstitutional. It (state government) is just boycotting the Governor. Is West Bengal outside the country?… There is no democracy in Bengal,” Ghosh added.

But the Trinamool Congress leadership hit back. Senior Trinamool leader and state minister Rabindra Nath Ghosh said the Governor must not cross his constitutional limits by holding administrative meetings.

“We have never seen this kind of administrative meetings. Here, such meetings are chaired by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. I think the Governor has no idea how many administrative meetings our chief minister has held over the last few years. The Governor should remain within his constitutional limits. He is the constitutional head of the state, while the chief minister is the administrative head of the state. He cannot enjoy both positions,” said Ghosh.

TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee, however, refused to comment on this. “The administrative head of our state, which is Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, will speak on this. It does not mean that we have to react on everything the Governor says. Let him do his work. I have nothing to say on this,” he said.

The relation between the TMC government and Raj Bhavan soured in July, weeks after Dhankhar was appointed as the Governor after he rushed to Jadavpur University to escort Union minister Babul Supriyo after the latter was stopped from leaving the campus by protesting students. The Governor’s action did not go down well with the TMC government. Since then there have been several instance of a war of words between the TMC leadership and the Governor.

— With ENS, Kolkata

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