West Bengal Chief Secretary in the eye of the storm over his recall to the Centre chooses to retire and is appointed chief adviser to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee

Published : May 31, 2021 21:25 IST

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with her newly apppointed chief adviser Alapan Bandyopadhyay, in Kolkata. Photo: PTI

The feud between the West Bengal government and the Union government over the latter’s sudden recall of Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay to the Centre, has intensified, with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, refusing to “release” the Chief Secretary, who was ordered to report at North Block, New Delhi, by 10 a.m. on May 31. The order recalling the Chief Secretary had come days after the Centre had given its assent to extend his tenure for three more months. On May 31, Alapan Bandyopadhyay chose to retire from service and was immediately appointed as chief adviser to the Chief Minister.

In a letter to Modi, dated May 31, Mamata wrote, “The Government of West Bengal cannot, and is not releasing its Chief Secretary at this critical hour, on the basis of our understanding that the earlier order of extension, issued after lawful consultation in accordance with applicable laws, remains operational and valid. The latest order is also clearly in violation of applicable laws and against public interest: it is in any case ab initio void.” She pointed out that the Centre’s “unilateral” order came “without any prior consultation whatsoever with the Government of West Bengal, without any volition/option of the officer, without meeting any of the preconditions of the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954, and other applicable laws under reference.” “The unilateral order/directive is legally untenable, historically unprecedented and wholly unconstitutional,” alleged the Chief Minister.

Hours after Mamata wrote to Modi, the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension wrote to Alapan Bandyopadhyay, and referring to the State government’s refusal to release him, said, “I am directed to inform that in terms of the provisions of Rule 6(1) of IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954, in particular the provisio thereunder, the Central Government, by resolving the disagreement between the Central Government and the State Government of West Bengal, has decided to place the services of Shri Alapan Bandyopadhyay, IAS (WB: 1987) with the Government of India with immediate effect.” The Centre once again asked Bandyopadhyay to report at North Block by 10 a.m. on June 1. Bandyopadhyay, however, opted to retire.

Addressing a press conference, Mamata lashed out at Modi, saying that the Centre is breaking the morale of the bureaucracy in the country. “A bureaucrat who has spent his whole life working for the country cannot be made to join the Centre without his consent…. Are they [the bureaucracy] the bonded labour of the Central government? … Mr Busy Prime Minister, Mr Man ki Baat Prime Minister, what do you want? Do you want to finish me? As long as people keep giving me their support, you can never ever do it,” said Mamata. She appealed to all the State governments, NGOs, IAS, IPS, State service officers, and intellectuals to remain united and “fight the battle”. “It is not just Alapan Bandyopadhyay’s battle, this battle is for all the bureaucrats, who are now too afraid to ask questions,” said Mamata, adding that a “syndicate of two” is running the show in the country.