Didi-Dhankhar slugfest adds to Bengal political drama

Jagdeep Dhankhar, Mamata Banerjee, BJP Bengal
On several instances, the governor had expressed his dissatisfaction with the ruling dispensation despite the fact that he was appointed to the post only three months back | PTI File

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar is miffed with what can be referred to as conscious disobedience of officials and ministers of the government led by Mamata Banerjee. And on many instances the governor expressed his dissatisfaction with the ruling dispensation despite the fact that he was appointed to the post only three months back.

After district officials and bureaucrats recently refused a meeting with him citing their busy schedules, Dhankhar on Tuesday (October 22) hit out at the government, wondering whether some sort of “censorship” was in place in the state.

Dhankhar said district officials had told him that they need government permission to meet him. He further alleged that he was told that all senior government officials were in north Bengal, accompanying CM Banerjee on a tour.

Also read | West Bengal Governor takes offence to officials’ refusal to meet him

The governor had last week expressed his wish to hold meetings with officials, including district magistrates and bureaucrats from the North and South 24 Paraganas districts.

BJP’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya responded to the incident, saying the way Dhankhar was insulted was “unprecedented” in the country. “The governor is repeatedly insulted because West Bengal is run by Mamata Banerjee’s laws,” he alleged.

Things took an ugly turn on the evening of September 19 when Dhankhar visited Jadavpur University to “rescue” Union minister Babul Supriyo from protesting students, a visit that was soon politicised by leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC).

Also read | Felt insulted at Durga Puja carnival, says West Bengal governor

Minister Partha Chatterjee said he was tired of reacting to the governor’s criticism of the state government | PTI File

TMC general secretary and had then termed Dhankhar’s visit to the university “unfortunate and shocking”, claiming that the governor had not informed the elected state government about his visit.

Recently, he had even said that he was tired of reacting to the governor’s criticism of the state government. “Dhankhar has been commenting on almost everything and doing whatever he feels like. I have never seen anyone like him in my political career,” he said.

Drawing the line

It seems the governor too wants to keep the line clear and intact between him and the government, even if it portrays him in the role of an Opposition leader. Recently, he had raked up the issue of “intolerance by structured mechanism”, and incidentally, his remarks followed the arrest of a state Congress spokesperson for alleged criticism of the government.

“Expressions of your view point is a golden gift of the Constitution and its intolerance in any form is destructive of democracy. Let’s learn decent ways to disagree one another. Intolerance by structured mechanism is painfully worrying,” he had recently tweeted.

Also read | Bengal govt urges MHA to rethink on entrusting Guv’s security with CRPF

The TMC had then responded claimed ignorance to the governor’s tweet, saying the party does not feel the need to respond to everything the governor says. “We don’t want to hog newspaper headlines every day,” minister Chatterjee said.

A prominent saffron leader of the state, Rahul Sinha, had alleged that the TMC was trying to corner the governor. He had claimed that the party was trying to intimidate him and stop him from being a vigilant governor of the state.

When Dhankhar felt ‘insulted’ over a ‘corner seat’

Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar greets CM Mamata Banerjee during the Puja carnival | ANI File

It may also be recalled that the governor had said he felt “insulted” during the Durga Puja carnival, an annual end-of-festival organised in Kolkata, as he was given a seat on one corner of the dais, from where he could watch the programme properly.

It is no surprise that what the TMC sees in Dhankhar is a regular “BJP politician”, rather than the constitutional head of the state. And the ruling party has, on several instances, slammed the governor for what it alleged a rather political stand, not suiting the post of the governor. Dhankhar, was a senior advocate of the Supreme Court and former BJP legislator from Rajasthan’s Kishanganj seat.

The conflict between Dhankhar and TMC, according to the CPI(M), is a “mock fight” that the BJP leadership is using to project its anti-TMC agenda in the state. Md Salim, CPI(M)’s former Lok Sabha MP, was recently quoted as saying that such war of words only helps keep the media engaged and propels Dhankhar’s pro-people agenda.

Not unprecedented

The rift between Banerjee and the state’s governor is not unprecedented, however, the turn of events within three months of Dhankhar’s appointment is indeed surprising.

Dhankhar’s predecessor, KN Tripathi, had locked horns with the dispensation last year after the latter accused him of bypassing the elected government while directing state officials to attend a review meeting in Murshidabad.

The TMC had even raised the issue in Rajya Sabha but the plea was rejected by Chairman Venkaiah Naidu.