How Governor Dhankar is battling it out with a firebrand Mamata in WB?

Jagdeep Dhankhar
A political clash is likely between a state government ruled by the Opposition and the governor; more so, if the state’s chief minister is Mamata Banerjee, a firebrand leader fiercely critical of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, and the governor in question is Jagdeep Dhankhar, a former Supreme Court advocate and staunch Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran.


After Kesari Nath Tripathi’s term was over and the prestigious office of West Bengal’s governor went to Dhankhar in July 2019, political circles were expecting a clatter between the chief minister and him sooner or later.


It all began at Jadavpur University (JU) in September last year, when students allegedly heckled Union minister Babul Supriyo and Dhankhar had to rush to the varsity to supposedly rescue him. Supriyo had gone to the university, a known bastion of Left thinking and philosophy, on invitation from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad — the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.


Surprisingly, in what could have become a BJP versus Left Front political debate, Dhankhar trained his guns at the state government by commenting that what happened at the university was a “reflection of the law and order situation in the state” — a state ruled by Banerjee and her party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC).


The TMC, ever suspicious of Dhankhar because of his past political affiliation, did not take his words kindly and hit back, alleging that the governor played a partisan role by not taking the state government into confidence.


Dhankhar had just toed the BJP’s line of accusing Banerjee of lawlessness in the state, which alarmed the TMC.


After rounds of unpleasant conversations for the entire October last year, the situation eventually snowballed into a routine blame-game between the state government and the governor.


The governor had accused the state government of not allowing him inside the  Assembly as the gate was locked despite the Speaker being informed in advance; at another instance, he called it a protocol violation after the Banerjee government queued him at the sixth spot in addressing the Assembly on the Constitution Day. Dhankhar said as governor he had the first right to address the Assembly on the occasion.


The differences between Dhankhar and Banerjee touched new lows in December when the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) engulfed the state, and Banerjee led the political opposition to the law.


Dhankhar, who is in support of the CAA, called Banerjee’s actions “unconstitutional” and advised her to focus on controlling lawlessness in the state, instead of agitating against an Act passed by Parliament. Banerjee and her party reciprocated by accusing Dhankhar of running a “parallel administration” and being “a BJP partyman who has ascended to the position of a governor”.


Ironically, JU students (some of whom are aligned with the Left) protested Dhankhar’s stance on the CAA and not only showed him black flags, but denied the governor entry into the university convocation, and went on to sign a letter to symbolically “rusticate” him from the university. Dhankhar, by virtue of being governor, is honorary chancellor of Jadavpur University.


The two have been at the loggerheads in all aspects of polity, governance and events. While Banerjee came up with an annual business summit to attract investors in the state, the governor took it upon himself to meet investors just days after the business summit. It left investors in the state perplexed, even though Dhankhar’s scheduled meeting is yet to take place.


Dhankhar has been personifying political activism of his office and wants to stay updated. He has been repeatedly asking Banerjee and her ministers and other senior state officials to keep him posted on various developments.


On the other hand, Banerjee and her ministers have been skipping any meeting with him at the first chance they get. Dhankhar had sought a meeting with various parties to discuss the West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019; Banerjee skipped the meeting and only leaders from the Congress and the Left Front turned up.


In a recent spate, Dhankhar alleged that Derek O’Brien, a TMC MP, had stated that the governor while being an “honourable man”, was “providing a daily dose of comedy to the citizens of the state” as one of his job responsibilities as well.


Political circles view the development as a “low” in the state’s political history but more episodes of such political disdain are expected in the state.


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