The row between the West Bengal Governor and the Mamata Banerjee government escalated on Wednesday, with senior ministers tearing into Keshri Nathi Tripathi, and the Raj Bhavan hitting back by dubbing the accusations as “attempts to cover lapses” and “divert attention from the main issue of law and order”.
A day after accusing Governor Tripathi of “threatening and humiliating” her during a telephonic conversation over a communal disturbance in North 24 Parganas district, Banerjee refused to talk on the issue but fielded two of her senior ministers Partha Chatterjee and Subrata Mukherjee to wage the battle on her behalf.
While Education Minister and Trinamool Congress Secretary General Chatterjee accused Tripathi of behaving like a “BJP cadre”, Rural Development Minister Mukherjee called the governor “BJP’s parrot”.
Chatterjee alleged that Raj Bhavan was “inciting and helping” those trying to engineer riots in various parts of the state, and warned him that his party would not remain silent if Banerjee was attacked.
“He is behaving like a BJP cadre… We condemn strongly the tone and tenor of the words he used while speaking to the chief minister, and threatened her. He caused her immense pain.”
Chatterjee said the Trinamool has already written to President Pranab Mukherjee and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the issue.
“The Trinamool and the Trinamool legislative party want to remind the governor that Raj Bhavan cannot be a BJP den.”
On the other hand, Mukherjee held that Tripathi himself drafted all the complaint letters from the BJP before passing them to the state government.
“We feel he is BJP’s parrot. We have received many letters of complaint from BJP through him. He takes those letters from BJP leadership, drafts them himself and sends them to us. This is not the job of a governor,” he said.
He also took a swipe at the governor for stating that he also has certain administrative powers like the Chief Minister.
Mukherjee claimed that Tripathi is going all out to back the BJP as he is unsure about retaining his post after the new President is sworn in.
Soon after Chatterjee’s media interaction, the Raj Bhavan came up with a press release articulating Tripathi’s “observations”.
In the release, more hard-hitting than the one issued a day back, the Governor advised Banerjee and her ministerial colleagues to “direct their attention to maintain peace and law and order in the state without making any distinction on the basis of caste, creed or community”, instead of making accusations against him.
It also termed as “baseless” the Chief Minister’s allegations against Tripathi, and said these amounted to “insulting and humiliating the Governor and his office”.
The Raj Bhavan said the Governor was aware of his constitutional obligations and needed no lesson from anyone on the subject.
“The Governor has been apprised of the statement of Partha Chatterjee, Education Minister, and regrets to say that this is an attempt to cover the lapses of the state government and divert the attention from the main issue of law and order.”
The release held it was wrong to say “that Raj Bhavan has become the office of the BJP or the RSS (Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh).”
It said that Raj Bhavan was not expected to “tear off or throw in the wastepaper basket” the representations received by the Governor or his office from any person.
“Whenever any such representation is received from anyone, the same is forwarded to the state government for appropriate action.”
Amid the stand-off, the state BJP demanded Banerjee’s resignation and urged the Centre to immediately impose President’s rule, saying law and order has collapsed and there were frequent Incidents of communal tension.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh also termed Banerjee’s allegations against Tripathi as against constitutional propriety.
The CPI-M rapped Banerjee for trying to make a big issue out of her telephonic talks with Tripathi.
“People of the state are not interested in the fake quarrel between the Governor and the Chief Minister. At a time when the state is going to dogs, she is pre-occupied with her personal issues”, said party politburo member Mohammad Salim.