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Bengal bureaucrat withdrawn from Raj Bhavan ‘on Governor’s request’ — BJP the ‘advisor’?

Development comes weeks after BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari had named IAS officer Nandini Chakravorty in a tweet, calling her ‘special emissary of state government’ in Raj Bhavan.

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Kolkata: A senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer has been withdrawn from the Raj Bhavan in Kolkata upon the request of the Governor, in what is being called the first such example of an officer’s removal in recent memory.

Nandini Chakravorty, principal secretary to Governor C.V. Ananda Bose, was shifted to the tourism department Wednesday.

Sources in Raj Bhavan told ThePrint the Governor had written to the Bengal government seeking a younger officer in a move to revamp his team of officers.

The ADCs (Aides-de-Camp) to the Governor, both from the police force as well as the Army, have recently been changed and new officers appointed.

The process of Chakravorty’s removal, however, hit a roadblock last week as the note to relieve her was addressed directly to the bureaucrat, instead of the  state chief secretary as is the norm, and copies of the same were sent to the Chief Minister’s Office as well as the chief secretary.

Relying on the “technical glitch”, till Monday the State Secretariat (Nabanna) remained mum as news of the principal secretary’s removal spread.

Sources in the secretariat had told ThePrint Monday that “no decision” had been taken and Nandini Chakravorty was attending office.

On Tuesday, West Bengal chief secretary H.K. Dwivedi held a closed-door meeting with the Governor at Raj Bhavan over the progress of his request, among other discussions.

Nabanna then passed the order of Chakravorty’s removal 24 hours later, allowing the Governor to have his way. A new bureaucrat is yet to be officially appointed at Raj Bhavan to replace Chakravorty.

While the ruling Trinamool Congress has not officially commented on the development, Chakravorty’s removal from the Raj Bhavan has been criticised by the CPI(M), while the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has blamed “non cooperation” on the part of bureaucrats for the Governor’s decision.

Also read: WB governor’s praise for Mamata irks BJP again. TMC calls his appointment ‘miscalculation’ by BJP

‘It’s an insult’

Chakravorty’s exit from the Raj Bhavan comes at a time when West Bengal BJP leaders have been openly speaking about Governor Ananda Bose’s good ties with the Mamata Banerjee government. The state’s previous Governor, Jagdeep Dhankhar, was known to be at odds with the state government on various issues.

In Kolkata’s Raj Bhavan, the BJP was seen skipping official functions while the Trinamool Congress was in full attendance.

BJP state chief Sukanta Majumdar met Governor Bose last week and talked about the “rising corruption” in the state.

On 26 January, the leader of the opposition in the state assembly, BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, called Chakravorty a “special emissary of the state government” in the Raj Bhavan.

Referring to the ‘hatey khori’ (initiation into education) ceremony, during which the Governor began his formal training in Bengali language, Adhikari tweeted: “Ms Nandini Chakravorty (IAS), Principal Secretary to Governor, acting as a ‘special’ emissary of the state government latched on to this chance (hatte khori ceremony) to execute the hidden political agenda of the chief minister by artfully using the office of the Governor.”

On Monday, when news broke about Chakravorty’s removal, CM Mamata Banerjee, while speaking inside the Vidhan Sabha, quipped: “Is he (Suvendu Adhikari) the adviser to the Governor?”

Talking about Chakravorty’s removal, CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty alleged that the bureaucracy was being used as a puppet by the ruling dispensation. “Be it at the Centre or the state, IAS and IPS (Indian Police Service) officers who are highly educated, are being misused by the heads. The Governor didn’t want the officer and the state allowed her to go,” he told ThePrint.

The Bengal BJP president, however, told a press conference Wednesday, “Unfortunately, in West Bengal, the bureaucrats lose their spine and forget their constitutional obligations. That’s why the Governor had to change officers when there was no cooperation.”

While the Trinamool Congress refused to speak on the issue officially, party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh told ThePrint: “As a courtesy, the state government gave its nod for Nandini Chakravorty’s removal, but surely it’s an insult for a highly-qualified woman IAS officer if done at the behest of unhappy political leaders.”

He added that the party would not issue any statement on this development and these were his personal views.

A long career

Chakravorty, a 1994-batch IAS officer, was appointed the principal secretary to La. Ganesan, then acting governor of West Bengal, in August 2022. Ananda Bose took oath in November last year.

Ganesan had taken interim charge after former Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar was elevated to the post of Vice-President of India. The additional chief secretary to Dhankhar, IAS officer Sunil Gupta, joined the Vice-President’s Office as his secretary in New Delhi.

Before taking charge at the Kolkata Raj Bhavan, Chakravorty was posted as the principal secretary in the department of non-conventional energy.

A senior bureaucrat, Chakravorty has served in several offices, including as Managing Director of West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation.

In 2011, when Banerjee took oath as Bengal CM for the first time, Chakravorty was appointed in the department of information and culture.

This is not the first time Chakravorty has been withdrawn from a post. In 2015, she was removed as secretary of the Sunderbans affairs department, reportedly as a “fallout” of an alleged tussle with then minister Monturam Pakhira over the monitoring of projects.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

Also read: Governor Ananda Bose was turning tides in Bengal. Then he fired his principal secretary

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