Kolkata: In what is being termed as a new low in the tense ties between Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the West Bengal Legislative Assembly was adjourned Tuesday for two days as Speaker Biman Banerjee said the Governor was “delaying” his approval to an “important bill”.
While the Trinamool government sees an “ulterior” motive behind the Governor holding back the bills, the latter has said he is “not a rubber stamp”, and that he needs proper time and cooperation from the departments concerned to vet the bills.
In a detailed statement released late Tuesday, the Raj Bhavan elaborated on how the Governor has been awaiting “response” from the departments concerned before he could approve at least half-a-dozen pending bills.
Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee said Tuesday it seemed Governor Dhankhar was doing all these with an “ulterior motive”, functioning as the “opposition party”.
Party MPs have raised issues in Parliament regarding the Governor and his actions during the ongoing session.
First-of-its-kind crisis in Legislative Assembly
Adjourning the assembly, Speaker Banerjee said Tuesday he was forced to adjourn the session for two days since an “important bill” — The West Bengal State Commission for The Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes Bill, 2019 — are pending the Governor’s approval.
The development — happening possibly for the first time in West Bengal — only marks a fresh escalation of tension between the Bengal Governor and the CM who have been at loggerheads on various issues in the last four months.
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What Dhankhar says on pending bills
In its statement, the Raj Bhavan said the situation projected by Speaker Banerjee was “factually untenable”.
Stressing that there had been “no delay in handling the legislative work” on the part of Governor Dhankhar, and that “highest priority” was accorded to the pending bills, the statement said the delay was caused by non-cooperation of the state departments concerned.
Mentioning the West Bengal State Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Bill, 2019, the Raj Bhavan said it was received on 29 November and the Governor on 3 December sought a briefing by a senior official from the department concerned on the bill in reference to the SC and ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
The statement listed five other pending bills on which the Raj Bhavan is still waiting for the government’s response. Among them is the highly contentious West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching Bill) 2019, placed in August and is still under legal scrutiny.
Another bill mentioned in the statement is The West Bengal Lifts, Escalators and Travelators Bill, 2019. The Raj Bhavan said a communication was sent on 26 November to the Additional Secretary, Power, seeking a briefing on it, but there has been no response so far.
On The West Bengal Municipal (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Raj Bhavan said a communication was sent to Principal Secretary, Urban Development and Municipal Affairs, on 11 November, urging that the Governor be briefed on it.
The other two bills listed in the statement are The West Bengal Apartment Ownership (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which was cleared on 3 December after a long delay, and The Hindi University, West Bengal, Bill 2019.
Governor-government past clashes
Governor Dhankar had specifically requested the Ministry of Home Affairs for central security cover, which was a first in West Bengal. Senior official in the MHA said a request from the Governor to the state government seeking an upgrade to his security from Z to Z+ was not duly considered.
After security review meetings were allegedly delayed citing administrative reasons, central security was given to him a few days back.
The Governor’s requests for choppers to attend programmes were not responded to initially and then rejected.
Dhankhar had also alleged that he was “blacked out” in a Durga Puja programme and was not invited to the Kolkata International Film Festival.
The conflict was further escalated on the Constitution Day when none from the government attended the programme organised at Raj Bhavan while the Governor was present at the programme held in the Assembly. He said his “position of the constitutional head of the state has been seriously compromised’.
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