Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar's tenure marked by war of words with TMC

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on October 23, 2019 Published on October 23, 2019

Jagdeep Dhankhar, Governor, West Bengal

West Bengal Governor, Jagdeep Dhankhar, took to Twitter (@jdhankhar1) this morning and complained that "young officials with talent" in districts of North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas were "handicapped in imparting inputs" (with him).

The tweet come days after the district administration officials refused to meet the Governor without permission from the ruling disposition. Dhankhar wasn't too happy at that .

This is the latest of his flashpoints.

A few days back the Governor had requested the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to upgrade his security protocol to Z+ category. The request came after a similar one to the West Bengal Government was reportedly overlooked.

Governor Dhankhar's request to the MHA for a security upgrade is still pending; but, it has not stopped a war of words from erupting between him and other members of the Mamata Banerjee government.

In his three-month tenure (till October), the Governor's relationship with the West Bengal government has headed downhill. His frequent altercations with the state government has been lapped up by the media, and reported in detail.

Dhankhar, an advocate by profession , on his part has not minced any words when it comes to voicing a concern or his opinions.

And naturally, the senior leadership of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leadership have been critical of him.

The Governor, however, was clear in telling media persons that he is hurt by the political statements and repeated lashing out by the TMC top brass.

Path of Conflict

The Governor's request for a security upgrade came after he was gheraoed by students of Jadavpur University when he went to rescue an already mobbed Union Minister, Babul Supriyo. The stand-off between the students and Supriyo was ongoing for a few hours before the Governor stepped-in.

Dhankhar did not take the issue lightly. As Chancellor of the university, he was critical of the VC and the state government in handling the situation.

There was another outburst on the issue of the annual Durga idol immersion carnival that Mamata Banerjee's government has been instrumental in introducing recently. Dhankhar said that he felt humiliated, probably at being seated in a corner, and being overlooked by the Chief Minister.

The recent altercation was when the Governor was asked by the District Magistrates of North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas, to seek permission from the state government before meeting officials in the districts.

Dhankhar put out the letters in a tweet and requested that the civil society / academicians to protest such a move. He even tagged the West Bengal Chief Minister and tweeted: "@MamataOfficial As West Bengal governor in pain and concern I beseech the enlightened academicians, politicians, activists to reflect on worrisome governance issues that I noticed on my visit to North and South 24 Parganas and amplified by District Magistrate on 21/10".

Dhankhar told mediapersons that more than a personal insult, such snubs to the Governor "was an insult to the Constitution and people of Bengal."

This apart, his comments on political violence in the state and a visit to injured BJP MP Arjun Singh recently have further highlighted the growing differences between him and the Trinamool leadership.

"Expression 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 (with) one another. Intolerance by structured mechanism is painfully worrying ," he said in another tweet without naming anyone. The tweet came close on the heels of the police arresting a Congress spokesperson who was critical of the state government on social media.

In a recent interview to a Bengali TV channel, Dhankar said: "One cannot work for the people sitting at Raj Bhavan. To be of service for the people one has to go amongst them. You have to listen to the problems faced by the people."

Political Slugfest

Incidentally, Banerjee herself has never criticised the Governor in public.

Senior Trinamool Congress leader and MP, Sougata Roy, went on record criticising the Governor for "overstepping Constitutional limits".

Former union minister and state Panchayat Minister, Subrata Mukherjee, too was critical of the Governor and said the "state government should have been consulted" before Dhankhar sought a security upgrade from the Centre.

Trinamool Congress' secretary general, Partha Chatterjee, said there was "no need to react to every statement (of the Governor)" and Trinamool does not have the "desire to hog newspaper headlines everyday".

The BJP, however, has been quick to jump to Dhankhar's defence. The party's national secretary, Rahul Sinha, claimed that Trinamool was intimidating the Governor in a planned manner.

Congress, on the other hand, was measured in its approach. Their state unit chief, Somen Mitra, said the altercations "look childish" but maintained that the ruling Trinamool has failed to give "due respect" to the Governor.

Not the first stand-off

Dhankhar is actually not a one-off case when it comes to such dissent.

Mamata Banerjee since becoming Chief Minister in 2011, has worked with three Governors - Dhankhar (2019-present), KN Tripathi (BJP appointee 2015-2019) and MK Narayanan (an UPA-2 appointee 2010-2014). With all the three, her government has had its run-ins.

Narayanan rapped the Banerjee-led government calling it as "goondaism" ; Tripathi was critical of political violence and had reportedly met the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, and handed him a report on the law and order scenario here (after 2019 Lok Sabha polls).

Before Banerjee came to power, it was the erstwhile Left Front disagreed with the then Governor, Gopal Krishna Gandhi. The disagreements arose when Gandhi criticised the violence in Nandigram and subsequent police firing leading to death of 14 anti-land acquisition protestors. His statement and calling the scenario as "cold horror" made national headlines.

Incidentally, Gandhi and the then Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee never confronted one-another. In fact, the two were never failing in courtesy when in office.

But finally in 2017, Bhattacharjee broke his silence and wrote his heart out in his book 'Phire Dekha II' (Looking Back, Part 2), that was on the last 10 years of his government.

"I was astonished with the governor's public statement (referring to Nandigram police firing as one of cold horror). He was aware of the fact that people and policemen were being killed there. The government sent police to restore law and order. Who did he want to satisfy?“ Bhattacharjee wrote.

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Published on October 23, 2019
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