Kolkata: In a war of words between Mamata Banerjee and Jagdeep Dhankar, the Chief Minister on Saturday wrote a 13-page letter to the Governor where she accused him of trying to “usurp powers” amid the coronavirus crisis. She added that his comments against her and the state ministers and officers can be described as “intimidating” and “abusive”. Also Read - 'Give up COVID-19 Data Cover up Operation', WB Governor Accuses Mamata of Hiding Actual Figures of Cases in State
Banerjee’s sharp comments came after the governor shot off two letters to the chief minister last week amid the clash between the Raj Bhavan and Nabanna in the wake of the state’s response to COVID-19 outbreak. Also Read - West Bengal to Ease Lockdown Restrictions in Green, Orange Zones: Mamata Banerjee
“Such words and such communications of such content, tenor and tone from a Governor to an elected CM are unprecedented in the annals of Indian constitutional and political history. Your words against me and my ministers and officers can be described as vituperative, intemperate, intimidating and abusive,” Banerjee said in the letter to the governor. Also Read - Centre Making Conflicting Statements on Lockdown, There is no Clarity, Alleges Mamata Banerjee
Quick to react, the governor said that the chief minister’s letter “lacks substance both in fact and law”, adding he would send a reply as he “cannot subscribe the content as it eclipses the essence of constitution”.
Taking an exception to the “insult heaped upon her”, Banerjee challenged Dhankhar to produce any such correspondence from a governor to a chief minister in any state since the constitution came into force.
Accusing Dhankhar of preaching and sermonising constitutional norms “without practising and violating it”, Banerjee said the governor may not agree with her policies, but he has no power other than bringing it to her notice, as long as the government commands the confidence of the legislature.
Quoting various judgements and parts of the constitution, the feisty TMC supremo said being people’s representative, a chief minister has manifold obligations and diverse functions in a democracy, which is vastly different in content, contours and effect, from those possessed by nominated personages.
The paramountcy of the state legislature is subject only to the constitution, judicial review and is not even remotely to the office of the governor, she said.
“I beseech you to desist from intensifying your efforts to usurp powers, especially during the humongous crisis which the nation and WB is grappling with… Please do not attempt to destroy the singularity of the real executive organ of the State and please do not dream of a dyarchy in the state,” the chief minister said in the letter.
Banerjee added that the governor should desist from using the communications between Nabanna, the state secretariat, and Raj Bhavan in his “continuous tweets” besides the official logos.
“I reserve my right not to reply to your adjectives since I think my time is much better utilised attending to the manifold exigencies of a busy chief executive of one of India’s largest states,” she said.
Reacting to Banerjee’s letter, Dhankhar said that it is not the time to “bicker”.
“While I find no substance in her version, both in fact and law, I appreciate her stance for full cooperation with State Government. Persistently I had been beseeching her to work in togetherness as we are faced virtually with roof falling situation. Hope she acts as such,” he said.
“No time to bicker. There are no sane takers for this unseemly scenario. I have held enough close to my chest- looks like revealing is becoming unavoidable. Reply will be sent as her letter has content to which I cannot subscribe as it eclipses the essence of constitution,” Dhankhar said.
The acrimonious exchanges between the chief minister and the governor fanned the ongoing political storm over the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The BJP’s state leadership stood firmly in support of the governor, while the ruling TMC wondered whether Dhankhar has taken over the mantle of the opposition leader.
“The governor did the right thing by pointing out the failures of the state government. The chief minister through these letters is trying to divert the attention,” state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.
State Parliamentary Affairs Minister and senior TMC leader Partha Chatterjee said the governor was behaving like an opposition leader.
The face-off had escalated last week with Banerjee accusing Dhankhar of repeatedly interfering in the functioning of the state administration, and the governor asserting that a state cannot be governed as a personal fiefdom.
(With agency inputs)