A war of words on Saturday erupted between West Bengal Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after he disapproved of her remarks on the deployment of the army at toll plazas, saying one should exercise caution while levelling allegations against a responsible organisation like the armed forces.
“Every person should be careful while making allegations against a responsible organisation like the army...Do not let down the army. Do not defame the army,” Tripathi told reporters.
Banerjee hit back at the Governor, terming his statement as “unfortunate”. She tweeted, “The Governor is speaking in the voice of the central government! He was not in the city for about eight days (sic)”.
“Before making statements, all details should have been checked. It is very unfortunate,” she said in a statement.
Trinamool Congress Secretary General and minister Partha Chatterjee later led an eight-member party delegation to Raj Bhavan. After meeting the Governor, he told media persons that “we asked him on what basis he made this remark”.
The Governor told the delegation he said this on the basis of what he had been informed by the army.
“No Governor should make such comment against any state government or chief minister. We never made any remarks on our Governor, but we are very sad to make this comment today.
“Perhaps he is representing a particular political party. Both the Centre and the Governor are playing this dirty game making army their shield. This is most unfortunate,” Chatterjee said.
The TMC delegation submitted a memorandum to Tripathi protesting “the Centre’s role in the matter and the way the army was being misused”.
Unperturbed over the criticism by the chief minister and her party, the Governor said he stood by his statement and will do his duty. “I stick to whatever I have said. Let them say whatever they feel. It does not affect me. I will do my duty. Army should not be politicised or criticised,” he said.
The presence of army personnel at toll plazas had on Friday triggered a row with Banerjee questioning if it was an “army coup”, drawing a stinging condemnation from the Centre which said the remark showed her “political frustration”.
Banerjee had claimed that the army personnel were taking money from vehicles which they are not supposed to do.
The army had rebutted her allegations that its personnel were deployed at toll plazas without informing the state government and were collecting money, saying the exercise was being carried out in coordination with Kolkata police.
Image: The presence of army jawans at toll plazas in Kolkata had triggered a row with Banerjee questioning if it was an “army coup”. Photograph: PTI Photo