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West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said the attacks on her and her government colleagues by the governor amounted to ‘transgression of constitutional dharma’. (PTI)
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said the attacks on her and her government colleagues by the governor amounted to ‘transgression of constitutional dharma’. (PTI)

Tensions between Bengal CM and governor reach flashpoint

  • In a letter to Dhankhar, Mamata accuses him of making direct attacks and interfering in state govt’s work
  • Mamata Banerjee had earlier accused Dhankhar of acting on behalf of BJP-led Union govt

Tensions between West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and governor Jagdeep Dhankhar reached a flashpoint on Thursday, following on from after angry exchanges over issues like curfew protocols, coordination on relief measures and the visit of a central team to check for coronavirus measures.

Banerjee shot off a five-page letter to Dhankhar along with copies of exchanges between the two over the last two days and questioned his role as a governor. She accused him of making direct attacks, interfering in her government’s work and holding a press conference against it.

Dhankhar said the allegations were “outrageously factually wrong and constitutionally infirm".

“On 21 April, you made a statement in audio-visual media in Kolkata itself—an unprecedented event to be organized by a governor. In that you inter-alia purported in your words, ‘to warn me’ again and again, in your own words, warned me ‘not to do Centre bashing every morning’," Banerjee said in Thursday’s letter to Dhankhar.

“You appear to have forgotten that I am an elected chief minister of a proud Indian state. You also seem to have forgotten that you are a nominated governor," she added.

In the rest of the letter, Banerjee spoke about Babasaheb Ambedkar’s views on the role of a governor along with the observations of the Sarkaria Commission on the matter.

Banerjee said the attacks on her and her government colleagues amounted to transgression of “constitutional dharma and basic norms of decency between constitutional functionaries".

“A communication @MamataOfficial has been received. Outrageously factually wrong and constitutionally infirm," Dhankhar said in a tweet soon after Banerjee’s letter went public, adding that he would issue a detailed response because “people of the state need to know the real picture".

Late on Thursday night, Dhankhar said in another tweet that an initial response has been sent to Banerjee and that a final one would be sent to the chief minister by Friday morning.

The clash between the two sides is significant because Banerjee in the past has accused Dhankhar of acting on behalf of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government. The problems between the BJP and her Trinamool Congress (TMC) have continued for more than a year now. The political tussle intensified during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when the BJP managed to win 18 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

The forthcoming assembly polls in West Bengal in May next year is likely to witness a battle between TMC, which will seek a third term, and the BJP.

Senior leaders of the TMC said that the governor was indulging in politics and that his actions are biased against the state government. Members of the TMC indicated that one of the key bones of contention is that the governor’s office expects daily briefings by the chief minister on how the state is handling the coronavirus pandemic. TMC leaders said that daily briefings were not possible as the state machinery was busy carrying out services and helping people out during this pandemic. “This is not the first time when the actions of the governor have been against the state government and chief minister. We feel it is politically motivated," said a senior TMC leader based in Kolkata.

anuja@livemint.com

Shaswati Das contributed to this story.

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