Kolkata: West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Wednesday accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of ‘keeping aloof’ and not extending courtesy to him when he went to the legislative assembly on Constitution Day.
Dhankhar, who visited the assembly for the first time on Tuesday after taking up the post in July, claimed that the chief minister’s behaviour left him “bewildered” and “stumped”.
“What struck odd about the strategy at the assembly was that the leader of the House Hon’ble CM just kept aloof and took no step while I alighted or made way for a floral tribute to Dr Ambedkar at his statue. I expected otherwise,” Dhankhar said in a tweet.
Dhankhar and Banerjee did not greet each other or make eye contact before or after the programme, even though the chief minister was present alongside the Speaker, senior officials and legislative leaders of various parties to formally welcome and see off the governor.
Banerjee later told the media: “Even the prime minister smiles and talks when he meets me. He never behaves like this”.
Responding to Banerjee, Dhankhar tweeted that he had greeted and interacted with both the opposition and treasury benches and had word with Finance Minister Amit Mitra and Higher Education Minister Partha Chatterjee.
“I would never ever compromise on extending courtesy to anyone, much less Hon’ble CM for whom I have enormous personal regard. Surprisingly she made no expected move, leaving me bewildered. Was stumped,” he said in another tweet.
Dhankhar also apparently took exception to the chief minister’s comment that the “Governor seemed to forget that he was in Bengal not in Kashmir” – a reference to the way he lauded prime minister Narendra Modi for abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution that had given special powers to Jammu and Kashmir.
“This Constitution Day was indeed special and unique due to (the) welcome historical step of the Parliament at the visionary initiative of Prime Minister as regards an end to the aberration of Article 370. I beseech all who have a problem with it to reflect within. For us Nation First,” Dhankahr tweeted.
The governor also expressed ‘surprise’ over no representative of the state government attended the Constitution Day programme at Raj Bhavan.
“Raj Bhavan Constitution Day was planned a month in advance and personal communication was sent to Hon’ble CM a month back followed by a tentative programme. Others were also invited. Surprised that no invitee from Government participated,” he posted on social media.
The potshots taken by Dhankhar and Banerjee at each other are the latest in the continuing saga of frequent run-ins between the Raj Bhavan and the state government. Ever since he set his foot in the state, Dhankhar has had a litany of complaints against the chief minister, her ministers as also the administration on a large number of issues including law and order, constitutional propriety and the state’s education scenario.
In fact, during his address in assembly on Tuesday, Dhankhar alleged that his position of the constitutional head of the state has been “seriously compromised”.
“I am constrained with utmost reluctance to indicate that the position of the Constitutional head of the State has been seriously compromised. Such outrage is unprecedented,” he said during the speech, and called upon the members of the house to “reflect on this and engage in soul searching”.
Joining issue with the governor, Banerjee said one needed to ponder who is responsible for the situation to come to such a pass, and complained that Dhankhar’s sole motive was “publicity”.
“I am well aware who has sent you, why and for which purpose,” she said.
The governor’s lavish praise of Modi on the Kashmir developments had led to guffaws and suggestive coughing by the Trinamool Congress lawmakers during his address. However, Banerjee was quick to silence them.
Again, as the Governor was leaving the House after wishing everyone “Jai Hind’, the Trinamool legislators including some ministers responded with the ‘Joy Bangla’ (Hail Bengal) slogan.