Chief Secretary says State taking action; Governor asks Mamata Banerjee to apologise for remarks.
The row over Thursday’s attack on the convoy of BJP national president J.P. Nadda in West Bengal’s Diamond Harbour escalated on Friday, with the Union Home Ministry summoning the West Bengal Chief Secretary and Director General of Police to attend a meeting on December 14 to discuss the “law and order situation in the State including the incident regarding certain Z category protectees”.
State Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhay, however, urged Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla in a letter, to “kindly dispense with the presence of the State officials” at the meeting, saying the State government “is already addressing this issue with utmost seriousness”.
In the attack on Mr. Nadda’s convoy, several vehicles were damaged and party leaders including national general secretary Kaliash Vijayvargiya injured.
In a strong response to the attack, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said, “What happened yesterday was an unfortunate slur on democracy,” adding that he had sent a report to the Centre on the incident.
In his letter Mr. Bandyopadhay said three cases, two for vandalism at Usthi and Falta police stations under Diamond Harbour Police district, had been registered and seven persons arrested in the matter.
“The West Bengal Police had provided a bullet proof car and a pilot to Shri J.P. Nadda, which was in addition to the escort (vehicle by the State manned by the CRPF) and PSO CRPF. He is entitled as Z-category protectee,” Mr. Bandypadhyay said.
The letter added that the “DIG ( Police) of the range was stationed in the area to personally supervise the police arrangements, while four additional SPs, eight DYSPs, 14 Inspectors, 70 SIs/AS1s, 40 RAF personnel and 259 constable and 350 members of auxiliary forces were deployed on route and at the venue at Diamond Harbour.”
Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) held a press conference questioning the Centre’s summons to senior officials of the State government. “Centre has no jurisdiction to issue summons to Chief Secretary and Director General of Police. Law and order under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution is a State subject. So, if there are any issues regarding that, the State is answerable,” TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee said.
In response, BJP leader Mukul Roy said the Centre could summon officials of the State as “there is no rule of law in West Bengal”. Mr. Roy also termed the State government’s claims that enough security was provided to Mr. Nadda as a complete lie. “A bullet proof car was provided to Mr. Nadda; we did not see any policeman on the road. I have never seen a government that can lie so much,” Mr Roy said. Mr. Vijayvargiya also raised concerns about how free and fair polls could be held in such a situation.
Describing the attack as “unfortunate” and a “slur on democracy” , Mr Dhankhar on Friday asked Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to withdraw her comments directed at the BJP president.
“I take a very serious note of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee remarks… How can a respectable Chief Minister, who believes in rule of law and constitution can make such a comment. I request her to withdraw her comments,” Mr Dhankhar said addressing a press conference at Raj Bhawan. He added that Ms. Banerjee should withdraw her comments with an apology.
The Governor also criticised remarks from Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee.
“You cannot be so politicised that you lose a sense of proportion,” Mr Dhankhar said referring to comments from both Ms. Banerjee and Mr. Banerjee suggesting that the attack was due to provocation by the BJP.
Mr. Dhankhar also came down heavily regarding the comments made by Ms Banerjee terming some people as “outsiders”.
“India has one soul… the outsider-insider is the dangerous game. Please refrain from that,” he said.
The West Bengal Governor said in West Bengal any political activity is “ruthlessly oppressed” with the help of the police and such oppression of opposition climaxed yesterday.
“Administration does not allow any activity. How can that happen,” he said. Mr Dhankhar said that he has sent a report to the Centre on the Thursday’s developments. “What I wrote in the report is between me and the Centre,” he added but stressed that he would not remain silent when rule of law is not being followed.
During his hour-long press conference, the Governor touched on numerous issues including conduct of bureaucrats and his queries on various issues including on Bengal Global Business Summit remaining unanswered.
Following the press conference, the TMC leadership said the Governor’s threats could not intimidate the party.
“He (the Governor) sends such reports daily. By sending such reports and remarks, he cannot threaten Mamata Banerjee. The people of the State are with us,” senior TMC leader Subrata Mukherjee said.
Another party leader Omprakash Mishra questioned the Governor for asking the Chief Minister to withdraw her remarks against Mr Nadda. “Ms Banerjee is chairperson of a party and she made remarks against another political person. The conduct by the Governor is overtly political,” Prof Mishra said.