Dhankhar calls political condition in Bengal 'horrible and frightening'

PTI | Kolkata | Updated: 25-01-2022 22:45 IST | Created: 25-01-2022 22:45 IST
Dhankhar calls political condition in Bengal 'horrible and frightening'
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In a fresh standoff with the ruling Trinamool Congress, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Tuesday described the political condition prevailing in West Bengal as ''horrible and frightening'', while alleging that the people of the state do not have the freedom to exercise their franchise fearlessly.

Dhankhar also accused state assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee of transgressing constitutional norms.

While the Speaker termed the governor's accusation ''uncalled for'', the TMC claimed that the governor is acting as the ''working BJP president''.

The fresh war of words came a day before Dhankhar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee are scheduled to share dais at a Republic Day programme at Red Road in Kolkata.

The governor, after paying floral tributes at the statue of B R Ambedkar on the Assembly premises on the National Voters Day, said, ''We have seen post-poll violence of unprecedented level. Those who dared to vote according to their own volition had to pay the price with their life... Democracy is in deep peril here.'' Noting that a fact-finding committee appointed by the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission had observed that rule of the ruler and not the law prevails in the state, he said, ''This is an understatement; West Bengal's situation is so horrible and frightening that there is horror about the ruler here.'' He came down heavily on Speaker Biman Banerjee, accusing him of violating constitutional norms and not providing information sought by him.

''The speaker.... he thinks he has the license to talk anything about the governor,'' Dhankhar told reporters.

He claimed that on several occasions, the Speaker did not provide him with the information he had sought, including details of the assembly resolution on the extension of BSF's area of operation.

Dhankhar alleged his address to the assembly was blacked out twice.

''Does he not know Article 168 -- governor is number one in the legislature..... I will not withstand such indiscretions and unconstitutional work. The Speaker shall not henceforth blackout the address of the Governor. If he does so, he will face the music of law,'' Dhankhar said on the lawns of the assembly as the Speaker stood a little distance away.

The governor also accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of failing to answer his queries on various occasions.

Dhankhar said that the chief minister is ''duty-bound'' under Article 167 of the Constitution to provide such information.

''It is my duty to ensure that constitution is protected, preserved and defended,'' he said.

The governor claimed that the CM has not shared with him information on the formation of the Pegasus enquiry commission, global business summit, expenditure on Covid pandemic-related purchases of the state, Maa canteen, among other matters.

Maintaining that the chief minister herself has started an inquiry into pandemic purchases, he asked, ''Where is the report?'' Dhankhar claimed that his repeated appeals to the state administration to work within the constitutional framework have fallen on deaf ears.

Iterating that the state's chief secretary and DGP have failed to respond to the call of the Governor, he asked, ''Have these officials become a law unto themselves?'' The bureaucracy in the state is ''politically committed'', Dhankhar asked, ''Are they servants of the Constitution, are they to follow the rule of law or the diktat of an individual?'' He also lambasted the district magistrates of West Bengal for not attending an all-India meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Dhankhar asserted that no file was pending with him concerning any bill or government recommendation.

He clarified that it would be wrong to say that files on appointments of the state's Lokayukta, information commissioner, human rights commission and the Howrah Municipal Corporation bill were pending before him because he has posed queries on these but got no reply.

He said that the Speaker had talked about the pendency of another bill, but the President of India has rejected that during the term of his predecessor.

''I hope good sense will prevail on him. In every forum, he wants to tarnish the image of the Governor by talking about things which are incompatible with his office,'' Dhankhar stated.

Reacting to Dhankhar's accusations soon after, the Speaker said it was ''extremely discourteous'' of the Governor to have made such remarks.

''The honourable Governor had come to pay tribute to B R Ambedkar. It was not known to us that he would be utilising this platform for a press conference. This is totally unwarranted and discourteous.

''Assembly is such a place where he should work within his jurisdiction, and I will within mine,'' the Speaker contended.

Banerjee said that the Howrah Municipal Corporation bifurcation bill is yet to receive assent, and he had no information about the President rejecting the state's lynching-related bill, which the governor claimed to have happened.

''So far our assembly is concerned, we go according to the rules and the Constitution,'' he said.

He underlined that no other governor ever made such accusatory remarks and that the constitutional head and the government have always worked in a cordial atmosphere.

The Speaker had in December written to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to apprise them of Dhankhar's alleged ''interference'' in legislative matters.

The faceoff between Raj Bhawan and the state government also set off a political storm with West Bengal BJP leadership firmly standing behind Dhankhar and the TMC wondering whether ''the governor has taken over the mantle of the opposition leader''.

''The governor did the right thing by pointing out the lacunes and unconstitutional approach of the state government. The way the governor has been insulted by the ministers of the TMC government is unprecedented,'' BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh said.

TMC state general secretary Kunal Gosh said it appears that the governor has become the ''state BJP working president'' and is trying to divert the attention of people from the ongoing infighting in the saffron camp.

''The governor should brush up his knowledge of the constitution. He has to work within the framework of the constitution. He should stop behaving like the BJP working president, working too hard to divert attention from the ongoing infighting in the BJP camp,'' he said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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