West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Union government recalling State Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay to the Centre, days after approving a request by the State government for a three-month extension of his tenure owing to the ongoing pandemic situation. The Centre’s order, which arrived hours after Mamata skipped a review meeting of the post-cyclone situation with Modi, has been interpreted by the Chief Minister as political vendetta on the part of the central BJP for the drubbing it received at the hands of the Trinamool in the recent Assembly election. She alleged it was an “unconstitutional, illegal, without consultation, one-sided attempt to humiliate the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary and government of Bengal”. She urged the Centre to withdraw the letter ordering the Chief Secretary to report at North Block “by 10 am on May 31”.
Addressing a press conference on May 29, Mamata said, “Why are you behaving in this manner with Bengal? We have won a landslide victory – is that your only worry? You tried your best… but the people of the State voted for us and they ousted you. Please accept the mandate of the people.” She alleged that the ruling BJP at the Centre was trying to bulldoze the federal structure, and apparently has separate laws – one for Bengal and one for the rest of the country. “I appeal to you to end your political vendetta against the Chief Secretary, and withdraw your letter. Allow the Chief Secretary to work for the COVID-affected people and those affected by the cyclone. We are working just like a team,” said Mamata. She said the Centre by humiliating Alapan Bandyopadhyay has humiliated all the chief secretaries of the country. “Don’t you think the IAS and the IPS also have their own lobby? They are very much shocked,” she said, and expressed her government’s “full solidarity” with the IAS and IPS officers across the country.
According to Mamata, she had sent a letter on May 10 to the Centre requesting a three-month extension for Alapan Bandyopadhyay who is to retire on May 31, so that he could continue to work with the State government to combat the prevailing COVID pandemic and the impending cyclone. On May 24 the government received letter from the Centre, allowing Bandyopadhyay to continue as Chief Secretary for the next three months; however, four days later, another letter arrived from the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, stating that “the State government is requested to relieve the officer with immediate effect and direct him to report to the Department of Personnel and Training…”. “You tell me in 74 years have you ever seen this type of incident?” said an outraged Mamata Banerjee.
She insinuated that the Centre’s anger against Bandyopadhyay was because he was a Bengali. “Why so much anger on Alapan Bandyopadhyay for being a Bengali? Sometimes my Chief Secretary is a Bengali, sometimes a non-Bengali. Last time Rajiva Sinha was the Chief Secretary. We do not behave in such a manner; why do you? Why so much anger on Bengal? I do not want to make it a Bengali-non-Bengali issue; but there are many Bengali officers in Delhi. We can demand their return to the State, and you will also have to release them,” she said. Mamata said there should be “courtesy” and “mutual understanding” between the Centre and the State. “But the Centre is not even allowing the States to function, and every step of the way the will of the BJP is prevailing,” alleged the Chief Minister.
Regarding the controversy over her not attending the review meeting with the Prime Minister, Mamata clarified that she had sought “permission” from Modi three times before taking her leave after handing over the report on the damage caused by Cyclone Yaas to him. She said there was a deliberate attempt from the level of the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) to “tarnish her image”.