Trinamool MPs write to President seeking removal of West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar

Published : December 30, 2020 20:34 IST

Governor Jagdeep Dhankar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the first day of the Budget session of the West Bengal Assembly, in Kolkata on February 7, 2020. Photo: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI

The stormy relationship between the Trinamool Congress government and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar in West Bengal hit a new low with five Trinamool MPs writing to President Ram Nath Kovind requesting him to remove Dhankhar from his post. In a letter dated December 29, the MPs asked the President to “consider withdrawing your pleasure for holding the office of Governor of West Bengal by Hon’ble Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar for serious breach of oath of his office…”. The signatories of the letter were Trinamool Lok Sabha MPs, Sudip Bandopadhyay, Kalyan Banerjee, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, and Rajya Sabha MPs Derek O’Brien and Sukhendu Sekhar Ray.

The Trinamool has alleged that Dhankhar has “shown propensity to transgress” upon jurisdiction of other constitutional authorities. “His curious comments about free and fair election in West Bengal and seeking information about expenses of industrial meetings are within the jurisdiction of Election Commission and CAG (through AG Bengal to be placed before the State Assembly) respectively. Seeking apology from the Hon’ble Chief Minister of the State on an unfortunate incident on BJP president’s convoy is another transgression by the Governor,” the letter stated. The “unfortunate incident” was an attack allegedly carried out by Trinamool activists on the convoy of BJP president J.P. Nadda on December 10, in West Bengal. Dhankhar had tweeted at that time, “Concerned at alarming reports of anarchy and lawlessness @MamataOfficial indicating ruling party harmads on rampage at BJP President Convoy and political police @WBPolice in support. This happening in spite of my alerts to CS & DGP early morning indicated collapse of law & order.”

This is not the first time Dhankhar has spoken out against the State administration and the police. Time and again he has alleged that the State administration and the police are politically motivated in their actions and expressed concern over the allegedly declining law and order situation in the State. Raising this matter, the MPs wrote: “Hon’ble Shri Dhankhar is holding press conferences, briefing the media from Raj Bhavan, joining TV channels regularly as commentator and panelist. As if all this was not enough, he has gone to the extent of naming and defaming Senior officers of the Civil and Police services of West Bengal, thereby denigrating their official positions in the eyes of the people.”

The letter mentions the Governor’s “interminable critical tweets and statements” directed against the government, the Chief Minister and the ruling party. According to the MPs, the statements, made “with a political bias”, are likely to cause law and order problem. The letter also alleged that the Governor “openly” supported a political party. “We had expectations that after being nominated to the high constitutional post in the State, the Governor Dhankhar would rise above his political past, act impartially towards all political parties. Our expectations stand belied.”

The letter also spoke of Dhankhar’s relationship with the State legislature. "Hon'ble Shri Dhankhar has also not spared the State Legislature. He is sitting tight and refuses to sign a number of Bills passed by the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. Not only is he not signing the Bills, he is even asking for "explanations" from the Hon'ble Speaker. This is a direct insult and attack on the sovereignty of the State Legislature,” the letter stated.

The MPs attached a list of tweets and statements by the Governor that they found to be transgressions of the boundaries of his duties and also cited a number of judicial cases in which the role of the Governor was laid down. “For serious breach of constitutional norms, ethics and, in particular, for repeatedly violating Articles 159 and 144 (oath of office, and law declared by the Hon’ble Supreme Court), we do sincerely hope and pray that you would be graciously pleased to consider withdrawing your pleasure under Article 156 (1) of the Constitution so that people of West Bengal are not subjected to the vicissitudes of a political opponent, blatantly acting through the office of Governor,” the letter stated.

Some political observers opined that the letter was nothing more than “pressure tactics” by the ruling party on the Governor. Biswanath Chakraborty, well-known psephologist and professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University, told Frontline, “The Governor has raised several questions on the impartiality and efficiency of the bureaucracy and the police in the State. This intervention by the Governor has forced the police and the administration to act in a more neutral manner. To counter this, Trinamool is putting this issue before the public, knowing very well that the President of India simply cannot remove the Governor without the consent of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister, as per Article 78 of the Indian Constitution.” Biswanath Chakraborty pointed out that the Centre too had repeatedly expressed its dissatisfaction at the lack of neutrality of the State administration and the police.