Bengal CM, Governor ties take a turn for the worse

Education in State ‘politically caged’: Dhankhar; expect minimum courtesy from Governor, says Mamata

Published - July 17, 2020 04:35 am IST - Kolkata

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee share a light moment on the first day of Budget session, in Kolkata on February 7, 2020.

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee share a light moment on the first day of Budget session, in Kolkata on February 7, 2020.

The relations between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Thursday took a turn for the worse with Ms. Banerjee reminding that she was an elected head and her government did not get the desired respect from the constitutional head.

“We expect a minimum courtesy from the Governor ... The Governor should not speak like a political party,” the Chief Minister told journalists at the State secretariat hours after the Governor held a press conference saying education in the State was “politically caged.” The Governor had called a virtual meeting of the Vice-Chancellors of all State-run universities on July 15 where all but one head of universities skipped the meeting.

Mr. Dhankhar on Thursday said he would “have to set the process in motion to deal with their [VCs’] conduct in accordance with the applicable Act.” The Governor, who is the Chancellor of all State-run universities, said there was “non-compliance” by the VCs which could not be accepted. “Can the Education department and VCs self-proclaim they cannot be commanded by a Chancellor? Are they not accountable? When they become accountable?” the Governor had said earlier in the day.

The Chief Minister assured the Vice-Chancellors that there would be no action against them.

“Allow the VCs to work. If there is any coercive action against them Bengal will fight that,” Ms. Banerjee said. The Chief Minister reacted to the Governor’s remarks that his letters and communications to the State government have not been responded by waving a bundle of papers before journalists. She said the government tried to answer all his queries. “He has sent me a number of messages. I spoke to him four times yesterday ... what are we expected to do, manage the pandemic or keep replying to the queries by the Centre or Governor,” the Chief Minister said. She accused the Governor of being more critical of the State government than the BJP spokespersons.

Governor’s tweet

Meanwhile, the differences between the Raj Bhawan and the State government spilled to social media as well. Mr. Dhankhar took to Twitter saying that he ‘cannot fiddle in the Raj Bhawan as education downslides’. “Student welfare is too serious to be “politically caged”. As Chancellor and Governor cannot ‘fiddle’ in Raj Bhawan as Education downslides. Education is soul of society and its collapse hugely impactful,” the Governor had tweeted.

The State Higher Education Department responded saying that the post by the Governor is beyond his jurisdiction. “The Higher Education Department respectfully submit that the aforesaid post of conduct by Hon’ble Chancellor is beyond jurisdiction and contrary to specific statutory and delegated legislative provision and hence of no legal effect,” the department tweeted. Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said that as per an amendment passed in the Assembly, VCs require permission of the department to participate in a discussion with the Governor.

The relationship between the Governor and the State government has been far from cordial with both sides going public in targeting each other. After a brief lull caused by meetings between Ministers and the Governor, the public spat is once again out in open.

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