“Mamata Banerjee cannot last long as Chief Minister, as the people of West Bengal will not tolerate her dictatorial tendencies,” Markandey Katju, chairperson of the Press Council of India, told The Hindu on the telephone from New Delhi on Thursday.
In a message to Ms. Banerjee late on Wednesday night, through e-mail to the State’s Information Secretary Nandini Chakravorty, Justice Katju pointed out that during his recent visits to the city, he had learnt that Ministers and officials “are afraid to speak their minds” and are “terrorised” by her “unpredictable and whimsical behaviour.”
“This is a very unhealthy state of affairs and you will not be able to remain as Chief Minster for long unless you change your ways and become more tolerant,” he wrote.
Asked by journalists for her comments, Ms. Banerjee said that she had not received any letter and would not comment in this regard.
When it was pointed out by this correspondent that Ms. Banerjee had said at an event earlier in the day that it did not matter what her critics said, Justice Katju retorted: “The problem with her is that she has a big ego and I have great uncertainty if she will ever apologise to the people for her mistakes.”
“Bengalis are a very brave people and they are not going to forgive her unless she apologises to them for the blatant misuse of the state machinery,” he said, describing Ms. Banerjee as “intolerant, whimsical” and behaving in the “most undemocratic manner.”
He had, in his message, suggested that the Chief Minister apologise to the people who had been victimised, insulted, or arrested for expressing dissent against her.
Ms. Banerjee should act in a manner similar to that of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan, who had taken action against police officers involved in the arrest of a woman, who had posted comments on Facebook, protesting the shutdown of Mumbai following the passing away of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray.
“I request you to follow this up with the policemen who ordered and implemented the arrest of Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra of Jadavpur University and Shiladitya Chowdhury, and you should immediately withdraw the cases against them and apologise to them,” he wrote.
While Professor Mahapatra was arrested for forwarding an e-mail containing graphics of Ms. Banerjee, Mr. Chowdhury, a farmer, was arrested when he questioned her at a public rally in Belpahari in the State’s Paschim Medinipur district regarding the hike in fertilizer prices.
In the message, Justice Katju also advised Ms. Banerjee to immediately restore Damayanti Sen, an IPS officer, who was transferred from the city police (in connection with investigations in the alleged rape of a woman in Park Street) and apologise to her as well as to Tanya Bharadwaj, a student whom she had “insulted” during a television show.
Describing himself as a “well-wisher” of Ms. Banerjee, he wrote that he wanted her to do well, and there was still time to listen to his advice and change her ways.
“We are all human beings and we all make mistakes, but a gentleman is one who realises his mistakes and apologises. I can assure you that if you do so, you will go up in the esteem of the people of West Bengal, and the country,” he said.