Punjab Governor to Mann: Respond to letters or get set for Presidents rule
Purohit had earlier threatened Mann of legal action, if he used “derogatory language” against him outside the Vidhan Sabha. | File photo

Punjab Governor to Mann: Respond to letters or get set for President's rule

AAP slams BJP, accuses it of targeting Punjab government after Delhi

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The tussle between Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit and Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann intensified on Friday (August 25) with the former warning the CM that he could recommend President’s rule in the state and also initiate criminal proceedings if his letters are not answered.

In a strongly-worded letter, the governor also hit out at the chief minister for “breakdown of law and order situation” in the state. “I am pained to point out that there is reason to believe that there is failure of the constitutional machinery in the state,” he said in the letter. He also sought a report from the chief minister regarding action taken by him on rampant drug trade in the state.

Drug menace

Purohit said he had received reports from various agencies regarding the rampant availability and abuse of drugs in Punjab. “It is common knowledge that they are available in chemist shops. A new trend is observed that they are being sold in government-controlled liquor vends. The Narcotics Control Bureau and Chandigarh Police recently sealed 66 liquor vends in Ludhiana which were selling drugs,” he said.

Also read: Punjab governor threatens legal action against CM, vows not to use state chopper

He said the situation has deteriorated to an extent that the people are forced to act on their own. “Recent report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee that one in five are exposed or addicted to drugs in Punjab. These facts point to the breaking down of the law and order system in Punjab so much so that now villagers have started protesting on the streets in large numbers and decided to set up their own village defence committees to protect themselves from drugs,” he said.

“Before I take the final decision regarding sending a report to the President under Article 356 about the failure of the constitutional mechanism and take a decision about initiating criminal proceedings under Section 124 of the IPC, I ask you to send me the requisite information sought for under my letters referred to above, as also in the matter of the steps taken by you concerning the problem of drugs in the state, failing which I would have no choice but to take action according to law and the Constitution,” he said.

“Bound as I am by the duty placed on the Governor under the Constitution to see that the administration is carried on a level which would be regarded as good, efficient, impartial and honest, and that the proposals enunciated by the government are not contrary to the law of the land, I, therefore, advise you, warn you and ask you to respond to my letters and give me the information sought,” he said in his fresh letter to Mann.

BJP slammed

Meanwhile, AAP was quick to hit back at the BJP, accusing it of targeting their Punjab government after Delhi, referring to the Delhi Services Bill. AAP’s Faridkot MLA Gurdit Singh Sekhon took to Twitter and said, “Why is the BJP so afraid of Aam Aadmi Party and our CM Bhagwant Mann? First they tried to snatch away democratic rights of our elected govt in Delhi by passing the Delhi Services Bill in the parliament and now they are threatening to impose the President’s rule in Punjab. The AAP’s Punjab govt is continuously working for the welfare of the state and will continue to do so, your threats won’t derail us from achieving our goal of #RanglaPunjab.”

AAP leader Malvinder Singh Kang also said, “The governor should maintain a decorum. India's Constitution empowers elected people...Such warning by the governor and threat to impose President’s rule has revealed BJP’s agenda. I would like to tell the governor that if they want to impose the President's rule, they should do that in Manipur, in Haryana. Punjab government is working within the constitutional framework. The governor has just one agenda - taking forward BJP’s agenda of disturbing the non-BJP state governments...The governor is working like BJP spokesperson. This is against the democratic and constitutional principles of the country.”

Reacting to the development, TMC MP Saket Gokhale also tweeted, “Governor of Punjab is openly threatening the elected state govt that he’d invoke “Art 356” a.k.a. President’s Rule. Modi Govt has weaponized Governors across INDIA states & have turned them into de facto Leaders of Opposition who carry out the order of the BJP dutifully.”

Also read: Punjab governor vs AAP govt: Bhagwant Mann thanks SC for 'historic decision'

At loggerheads

Earlier, in June this year, Purohit had threatened Mann of legal action, if he used “derogatory language” against him outside the Vidhan Sabha. “By asking questions, I am just rendering my constitutional duty but he used the term “love letters” for my queries. I can’t compete with him. I have my own limitations. I can’t answer in the same language. I have to maintain the dignity of the Raj Bhawan,” he said. The governor also wondered if he committed a “sin” when he asked Mann to remove a tainted minister, referring to Lal Chand Kataruchak who was accused of “sexual misconduct”.

The AAP government’s move to pass a bill in the assembly, replacing the governor with the chief minister as the chancellor of the state-run universities emerged as another flashpoint between Purohit and Mann. Apart from it, the governor took exception to Mann raking up the issue of use of government helicopter by him during the assembly session. Purohit hit back, saying he will never use Punjab government’s helicopter during his state visit and will rather prefer to travel by his car. He also stated that he wasn’t using helicopter for his personal work but to discharge government duties.

Chief Minister Mann had also skipped the ‘At Home’ reception hosted by the governor at Punjab Raj Bhawan on the occasion of Independence Day earlier this month. The governor told the media that invitations for the ceremony were extended to various dignitaries, including the Chief Minister of Punjab. The Chief Minister’s office duly acknowledged the receipt of the invitation. However, the chief minister opted not to attend the ‘At Home’ function, he said.

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