After West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stole a march over the Centre on Monday (May 31) evening in the ongoing bitter row over the Chief Secretary’s transfer by appointing him as her Chief Advisor, the ball dropped back into the Centre’s court.
The Central government has now reacted by issuing a show-cause notice to former West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, asking him to explain in three days the reason for not reporting for Central deputation in Delhi on Monday, even after being summoned by the Centre, said an India Today report.
Bandyopadhyay had even been issued a reminder by the Centre again to report on Tuesday (June 1) morning. The situation has taken an ugly turn, as an FIR may be registered against the former senior bureaucrat, if he fails to reply to the show-cause notice.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) — which governs Central government officers including those belonging to the IAS — has issued the show-cause notice to Alapan Bandyopadhyay. The DoPT functions under the Ministry of Personnel and Public Grievances, a portfolio under the charge of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Bandyopadhyay, a 1987-batch IAS officer of the West Bengal cadre, was scheduled to retire on Monday (May 31). However, he had been granted a three-month extension till August 31 by the Centre on the state’s recommendation to work on COVID management and Cyclone Yaas relief measures. This extension was given to him on May 24, but he was suddenly deputed to the Centre, after he had reportedly failed to attend a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss the destruction caused by Cyclone Yaas.
Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee however refused to allow the Chief Secretary to be deputed to the Centre and shot off a letter to the PM on Monday saying that she was “shocked and stunned” by the “unilateral order” transferring Bandyopadhyay. In a five-page letter, Banerjee affirmed that her government will not release its Chief Secretary at this “critical hour”. Later in the day, Bandyopadhyay dramatically resigned from his post of Chief Secretary and was appointed as the chief advisor to the Chief Minister.
The day after, this show cause notice has been served to the Bandyopadhyay for not attending the Cyclone Yaas review meet chaired by PM Modi in Bengal, which Mamata Banerjee had also skipped, and had led to this major showdown with the Centre. The Centre has invoked Section 51(b) of the Disaster Management Act against Alapan Bandyopadhyay to get him to respond to the show cause notice, reported India Today.
Meanwhile, according to an ANI report, government sources told them on Tuesday (June 1) that Bengal CM Banerjee was misleading people on this entire dispute surrounding Bandyopadhyay. The report stated that she had clearly skipped the review meeting to discuss the post-Yaas cyclone situation in the state with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and left for a scheduled meeting at Digha.
The sources allegedly accused Banerjee of not taking permission from Modi and leaving the meeting. They added that she had agreed to attend the meeting but changed her mind after realising that Leader of Opposition (LoP) Suvendu Adhikari (her one-time close associate) was going to be part of the meeting.
The Bengal CM also had prevented other officers too from attending the meeting, which had effectively resulted in the cancellation of the review meeting scheduled by the Prime Minister. Moreover, sources told ANI that the order was not ‘unprecedented and unconstitutional’ as pointed out by Banerjee.
It was within the constitutional norms to recall the officer to the Centre since Bandyopadhyay was an All India Services officer and no presentation was made to the PM at the meeting due to his absence at the meeting. According to government sources, the retirement plan was made as a last bid to save Bandyopadhyay.
The Chief Secretary’s retirement has shown that Mamata Banerjee is on the back foot, they alleged. “She knows that facts of the matter are against the Chief Secretary and his behaviour was such that it will invite strict disciplinary action as he is an All India Services Officer and it was his duty to ensure that the review meeting takes place as scheduled,” the sources said, rediff.com reported.
They alleged that she had made a big U-turn in a matter of hours – from requesting PM to confirm the Chief Secretary extension for three months to retiring him now.
Bandyopadhyay is known to be a very articulate officer, who began his career as a journalist with the Anandbazar Patrika. He has earned a solid reputation for himself as a bureaucrat who serves his political masters well in implementing government’s policies.