Blow hot, blow cold: Bengal Governor keeps TMC, BJP guessing

Blow hot, blow cold: Bengal Governor keeps TMC, BJP guessing

Will he, won’t he? This is one guesswork intriguing both the ruling Trinamool Congress and the opposition BJP in Bengal.

The subject of speculation is Governor C V Ananda Bose — to be more precise his gubernatorial actions.

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The BJP leadership in the state wants the governor to do their bidding while the TMC expects him to be a mere figurine.

A few of his actions in the past few weeks caused such quick mood swings in the two rival political camps that they are left guessing about the role the state’s new constitutional head is playing.

Olive branch

The former bureaucrat commenced his new innings as governor in November last year with an olive branch to the state government.

He signalled an end to hostilities that dominated relations between the Raj Bhavan and the state government during the tenure of Jagdeep Dhankhar, now the country’s Vice President.

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So much so that praises the new governor heaped on the chief minister appeared to many in the BJP to have crossed the thin line between the bonhomie and partisanship.

The BJP state leadership were particularly left fuming when speaking at a recent event at the St Xavier’s University in Kolkata, the governor put Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the “distinguished league” with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, A P J Abdul Kalam and other statesmen.

Echoing the general sentiment in the party’s Bengal unit, BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta termed Bose as the “xerox machine” of the chief minister.

New twist

But just as when the BJP was giving up on all its hope on the governor and the TMC was breaking into celebration to hail the warmth of their relationship with the Raj Bhavan, the governor gave a new twist to the narrative.

Bose, earlier this month, suddenly relieved his principal secretary Nandini Chakravorty of her duties amidst the BJP’s charges that she was sent to the Raj Bhavan as an agent of the state government to push the “hidden agenda” of the chief minister.

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BJP state President Sukanta Majumdar and Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Suvendu Adhikari even accused Chakraborty of misleading the governor to make him soft towards the state government.

In almost an endorsement of the BJP charges, the governor reportedly sought an inquiry against his former principal secretary for allegedly misleading him and providing wrong information to the Nabanna, the state secretariat.

Much to the BJP’s delight, the governor did not even give consent to three names the state personnel and administrative reforms department forwarded to him as her replacement.

BJP overjoyed

Instead, sources said, he proposed a fourth alternative — Subrata Gupta, currently the Secretary in the food processing industries and horticulture department.

The BJP found trappings of an impending confrontation in the differences over the choice of new principal secretary to the governor.

The party was now ready to cheer for the governor in the battle. Adhikari had earlier even gone to the extent of saying the governor was “coming back on track”.

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The party’s belief that Bose was at last dropping the gloves to take on the state government was further bolstered when the Raj Bhavan issued a stern statement following the attack on the convoy of the Union Minister of State for Home Nishit Pramanik in Cooch Behar on Saturday.

Stating that he would not be a silent spectator to any deterioration of law-and-order situation in the state, the statement said: “Anti-social elements which try to take law into their hands will be dealt with sternly. Violence will be rooted out ruthlessly. The constitution should be upheld by all those who are committed to do so.

“Bengal expects every officer to do his duty, without fear or favour, be he in the police or magistracy or any wing of governance. Any laxity in the maintenance of law and order will lead to chaos and anarchy, which will never be tolerated. Under no circumstances will unruly elements and hooligans be allowed to hold society to ransom.”

TMC fumes

This time the TMC took umbrage at the governor’s observation while the BJP scurried to defend him.

Taking a dig at the governor’s hard-hitting statement, the TMC’s mouthpiece, Jago Bangla, in an editorial on Monday called him a former “BJP cadre” who is following the footsteps of Dhankhar.

The mouthpiece even questioned Bose’s silence on several other incidents such as a BSF trooper allegedly killing a Rajbanshi youth and a BSF company commander allegedly raping a female colleague.

A TMC leader, Madan Mitra, said the governor was slowly “showing his true colour”.

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“If the governor is keeping us under surveillance, he is also under our surveillance. He is not above the law,” Mitra added.

The BJP this time was all praise for the governor.

“The governor has done the right thing by pulling up the state government for the law-and-order lapses,” BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said.

“The governor was good (in TMC’s book) for so long he was heaping praises on Mamata Banerjee. The moment he flagged the deterioration of law and order, he became the target of the TMC. This is the real face of the ruling party. They want the governor to toe their lines,” said senior BJP leader Dilip Ghosh.

Normalcy again

Both the parties had to soon eat their words. Within 24 hours of his belligerent tone, the governor helped the state government resolve an imbroglio over the appointment of vice chancellors of the state-aided universities on Tuesday.

The appointment of vice chancellors was a constant source of friction between the state’s executive arms and the constitutional head during Dhankhar’s tenure.

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The tussle had spiralled to such an extent that the state government even brought a bill that was passed in the assembly seeking to replace the governor with the chief minister as chancellor of all state-run universities.

During the tenure of Dhankhar, the state government gave appointment (extension and full-term appointment) to 24 VCs without the approval of the chancellor, creating legal complications.

After a meeting with state higher education minister Bratya Basu, the governor, the ex-officio of all the state universities, decided to give three months extension to the vice chancellors whose appointments were under legal scanner.

Vice chancellors

Six vice chancellors have already tendered their resignations and got the extension. Others will soon follow suit.

As far as the legislation on replacement of chancellors is concerned, the state government decided not to push for it and continue with the present system. This was after Bose took over as the governor.

Search committees will be constituted for the full-term appointment of the vice chancellors, the meeting decided.

The way the contentious issue was resolved amicably is an indicator that in his dealing with the state government the mantra of the governor continues to be “cooperation and not confrontation” notwithstanding the signs of tension the two political parties had tried to invent.

If he succeeds in ending his entire tenure playing the similar traditional role of a governor, then some of the sanctity of the Raj Bhavan that got a severe battering during the Dhankhar era will be restored.

Will he? Won’t he?

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