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Governor: 'I am really worried for Bengal'

By PAYAL SINGH MOHANKA
May 07, 2021 16:19 IST
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'I urged the chief minister even before she took her oath requesting her to send a tough message to the police and the administration that any violent activity, any destruction of property, any arson, loot in your area, they will be held accountable.'
'Her silence on this speaks volumes.'

IMAGE: Trinamool Congress President Mamata Banerjee addresses an election rally in Poorba Medinipur, March 21, 2021. Photograph: Utpal Sarkar/ANI Photo

Jagdeep Dhankhar took over in July 2019 as the 28th governor of West Bengal.

It's no secret that he has had a strained relationship with Trinamool Congress leader and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

A challenge that none of his predecessors would have faced.

In an exclusive interview with Rediff.Com's Senior Contributor Payal Singh Mohanka, Governor Dhankhar shares his concerns about Bengal.

The concluding segment of a two-part exclusive interview:

 

Is being the governor of West Bengal your toughest assignment?

I have taken an oath under Article 159 which is two-fold to preserve, protect and defend the constitution to serve the people of the state of West Bengal.

Challenges are always there.

One has to rise to the occasion. I have always been pleading with the government to be in rational mode, to take affirmative steps to alleviate the sufferings of the people and not to get away from rule of law.

What I find most painful is that the present chief minister on wholly untenable considerations thinks she is a state within a state.

The state is bleeding, economically suffering and there is absolute flight of human capital.

Go to any family, and see. It is not a land of opportunity at all, it is not a land of peace.

The TMC has been blatant about its adversarial relationship with Your Excellency.

I take strong exception to this narrative which has been floated.

I have no adversarial relationship with the government.

They are thinking about it in their own manner because they find it expedient I don't know for what reason.

Yesterday (May 5) at the ceremony I had the occasion to interact with senior brass of the TMC.

I told them point blank why can't you senior people see the writing on the wall, the governance is totally on unconstitutional considerations.

There is no rule of law. The state is on fire. And you are still in a good mood.

How did they respond?

Do they have a right to respond? I see these ministers only in a swearing-in ceremony.

I think they are frozen in their tracks or full of fear even to connect with Raj Bhavan.

But let me tell you the state is passing through a very horrendous situation.

The TMC alleges that the Raj Bhavan has been converted into a BJP office.

Indicate one fact that may substantiate this. The governor is an easy punching bag.

And when you have a governor appointed during the regime of a political party which is not in power in the state, this charge is easily made.

But to the extent that I am concerned, I take my command only from the Constitution.

And there is no other aspect that can influence me either in the state or outside.

Will you be a bridge between the state and the Centre and ensure this mandate is honoured for the development of the state.

That is my primary duty. I have been pleading with the chief minister for a long time.

If there are issues with the Centre, I have to be shoulder to shoulder with the state government.

You will be surprised not a single response to me so far except one.

When we had a governors' conference in 2019, I wrote to the chief minister that this is a great opportunity if you have any issues with the centre I can raise them.

I had to send her a reminder to please flag me those issues.

And the fact is on the first day of the governors' conference I get a brief letter indicating just three not very significant issues.

I read out that communication of the chief minister. What more can a governor do? I have one issue with the media here.

The state is burning, but according to the media there is calm and peace!

Any message for the chief minister as she embarks on a historic third-term?

I urged the chief minister even before she took her oath requesting her to send a tough message to the police and the administration that any violent activity, any destruction of property, any arson, loot in your area they will be held accountable.

Her silence on this speaks volumes and proves what people are telling me that all this has been designed only to teach a lesson and weaken any force that can contemplate opposing the ruling dispensation.

These are the makings of a police state, a despotic state but surely they do not sync with democratic principles.

Third term is not usual. I complimented her on that.

I have said publicly after she took her oath that she must script a new behaviour of governance.

She must co-operate with the Centre, de-politicise bureaucracy, and take all steps so that ten years of evils that have accumulated in governance that is corruption, syndicate, politicisation of bureaucracy, repressive and oppressive attitude toward opposition, false implication in cases, all this has to be changed.

And there must be full belief in co-operative federalism, a healthy co-operation with the centre.

With the BJP having won 77 seats for the first time there will be an Opposition in the state assembly. This would surely work to Bengal's advantage

I wouldn't reflect on this but the Left that ruled for more than 3 decades has no presence in the assembly at the moment, the Congress ruled for more than 2 decades and there is no presence in the assembly.

Democracy can thrive only when both the Treasury and the Opposition benches act in concert on issues of governance.

Politically they can do what they wish to, but when it comes to governance the welfare of the people and the interests of the state they should be on the same page.

I have no idea what will unfold, but as on date I am really worried.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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