As the Centre shot off another letter to West Bengal on Wednesday warning that any delay in sending a report on the post-election violence in the state would be viewed “seriously”, Mamata Banerjee transferred 30 top officers, including DGP P Nirajnayan, in her first action after being sworn in again as Chief Minister, warning that violence of any kind will not be tolerated.
Following a meeting with top officials, Banerjee said “inefficiencies” had crept into the administration during the long poll process when the Election Commission held control, and said violence was being reported from areas where the BJP had won in the Assembly elections.
In the letter to West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay, the Union Home Ministry said the state had not responded yet to a report demanded by it on May 3 over the prevailing situation and measures taken to check post-poll violence. At least 14 people have been reported killed in violence since the May 2 results, including nine supporters of the BJP, four of the TMC, and one of the Indian Secular Front. “So far the report has not been received. According to media reports, violence continues. This means effective measures have not been taken so far,” an MHA official said, quoting from the letter. “The note also said that if the situation report is not received at once, it will be viewed seriously.”
Heading straight to the Secretariat after a low-key swearing-in ceremony, to take stock of the law and order, as well as the Covid situation, Banerjee said, “We will not tolerate any type of violence and will take strong action against the culprits… Some sporadic incidents have happened after counting… I have noticed that violence and clashes are taking place in areas where the BJP won the elections. These places can be treated as black spots.”
Blaming the EC, she said, “In the last two months, the administration was run by the Election Commission, there were some inefficiencies… The law and order situation in West Bengal deteriorated in these months. We have to change the whole set-up immediately… ”
The administrative shake-up Wednesday included transfer of 29 IPS officers and one IAS, including DGP Nirajnayan (moved as DG, Fire Services) and ADG (Law and Order) Jagmohan (now DG, Civil Defence). Banerjee brought back Virendra as DGP and Javed Shamim as ADG (Law and Order) — the two had been transferred by the EC during the election period.
Three officers were put on compulsory waiting by the CM.
Banerjee accused the BJP of spreading fake news regarding the violence. “Many sporadic incidents were reported, all were not real. Many of them are fake. The BJP is showing old or fake videos.” Accusing the BJP of “oppressing West Bengal” during the election, she added, “Now, stop all this.”
Earlier, soon after administering the oath to Banerjee, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar referred to the post-poll violence. As the CM stood beside him, he told the media, “I express hope that governance would be as per the Constitution and rule of law. India is a great democracy and power emanates from the process of law. We are at the moment in a very difficult crisis… I intimated (this) to the Chief Minister. She has taken the necessary steps. We must bring an end to this senseless violence. Post-poll violence is anti-democratic.”
Hinting at the bitter relations the earlier Banerjee government had with the Centre, which might worsen post the vicious electoral battle, Dhankhar said, “I would also expect from the new government a new approach, a new commitment to cooperative federalism. It is not usual that a Chief Minister continues for a third term in office… We have to rise above partisan interests. Governance should reach the poorest people.”
Banerjee took oath alone on Wednesday. More ministers may be sworn in on May 9, the birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, TMC sources said.
While the Left Front and BJP boycotted the ceremony, the only leader present from the Congress was Pradip Bhattacharya. PCC chief and MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury stayed away, as did another invitee, former cricketer Sourav Ganguly. The Congress and Left don’t have a single MLA in the new Assembly. From the TMC’s side, Partha Chatterjee, Subrata Mukherjee, Abhishek Banerjee and poll strategist Prashant Kishor were present.
BJP president J P Nadda, who rushed to Bengal on Tuesday to meet BJP leaders injured in the post-poll clashes, led an “oath-taking” of own at the BJP office, where party workers resolved to “protect democracy” and “save the people of West Bengal” from the violence. Nadda said, “I am going to districts like North 24 Parganas to be by the side of our members who were at the receiving end of brutal violence not witnessed in Independent India.”
In an appeal, Banerjee asked all political parties to maintain peace and harmony. “Bengal doesn’t tolerate unrest, nor do I. Starting today I will tackle the law and order,” she said.
Thanking the people for the massive mandate to the TMC, making her the 21st CM of Bengal. she added, “In Bengal and outside Bengal, and in different corners of the world, many people were worried about the results… Due to the Covid situation, the invitee list (for the swearing-in) was limited… Please forgive me. When Covid is over, we will hold a Brigade rally where I will invite everybody.”
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