West Bengal governor escalates spat with Mamata government

Jagdeep Dhankhar has now raised questions about the procedures followed in the appointment of consultants and senior consultants in various departments

Governor Jagdeep Dhankar is already engaged in a bitter spat with the state government over his stand on the Howrah Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill that sought to carve out Bally as a separate civic body | PTI Photo

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar fired yet another salvo at the state government on Tuesday amidst confusion over his stand on a Bill that has created complications in conducting pending polls to a corporation next month.

This time the governor raised questions about the procedures followed in the appointment of consultants and senior consultants in various government departments and sought a detailed report from the Chief Secretary, Hari Krishna Dwivedi, about the “mechanism and modalities” followed in the recruitment process.

In a tweet Dhankhar alleged that the appointment process was “opaque and has all the trappings of extending favouritism and patronage”.

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The government last month called for applications from serving and retired professionals for 50 posts of consultants and senior consultants to be appointed on contractual basis through lateral entry in various departments.

Senior consultants will be equivalent to the rank of a special secretary while consultants will get the rank of a joint secretary. As the age limit for the posts is 35-70 years, many retired government officials are also eligible for the positions.

A notification for the appointment was issued on November 26.

“The mechanism provided in the said notification is opaque and in disregard to judicial pronouncements. There is widespread apprehension that by such a mechanism, the administration is sought to be packed by ‘patronage appointees’. There are some alarmingly disturbing inputs…” the governor said, raising objections to the process.

That a 70-year-old person could also be an applicant is “unusual to employment”, he added, asking the chief secretary to provide him a detailed report within a week.

The governor is already engaged in a bitter spat with the state government over his stand on the Howrah Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill that sought to carve out Bally as a separate civic body.

Close on the heels of the state’s advocate general claiming in the Calcutta High Court that the governor has given his consent to the Bill, Dhankhar refuted the claim, implying that the state government lied before the court.

“I have not signed the Howrah Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2021. I want to clarify that no proposal was sent to me on separating Bally Municipality from Howrah Municipal Corporation,” the governor said in a video post on Twitter on Monday.

“The state government claims that I am delaying the bill, you would be surprised to know that I received the bill on November 24 and I asked for some information regarding the bill on the same day. For almost four weeks, they didn’t respond to me. I have not received a proper response from the government over my queries regarding the bill,” he said.

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Due to the complications, the election schedule for the Howrah Municipal Corporations could not be announced on Monday. The state election commission (SEC) announced on Monday that it will hold polls in Asansol, Bidhannagar, Siliguri and Chandannagar municipal corporations on January 22.

Earlier the SEC and the state government had told the high court that it planned to hold elections to five municipal corporations, including Howrah on January 22, and the remaining municipal bodies on February 27.

“Election schedule for the Howrah civic body could not be announced due to the governor’s whims. When I had asked him why he was not clearing the bill, he told me that everything was sorted out. After that he came out with the statement that he did not give a nod to the bill,” said senior TMC leader Saugata Roy.

This is not the first time the governor is refusing to give his consent to a Bill. He is yet to give his nod to an anti-lynching Bill passed by the assembly in 2019.

Since his appointment as the governor in July 2019, there has been constant conflict between him and the state government.

The relation has strained so much that the government is even contemplating legal advice to find whether the chief minister could replace the governor as the chancellor of state universities.

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