Kolkata: Two days after the Narendra Modi government ordered West Bengal’s Chief Secretary, IAS officer Alapan Bandyopadhyay, to be sent on central deputation, CM Mamata Banerjee has sent a five-page letter to the PM, refusing to release him.
She has also requested the Modi government to “not inflict further suffering on the people of this state by taking away the services of an experienced officer”, and urged it to “rescind the latest order”.
The chief secretary heads over a dozen committees related to Covid management and rescue-rehabilitation work for areas affected by Cyclone Yaas. Mamata Banerjee said the Modi government was taking “political revenge” for losing the state elections earlier this month, and wrote that she was shocked and stunned by the “unilateral” and “unconstitutional” order.
She added that the order was a “bolt from the blue”, and has been taken with “mala fide intentions” and “hot haste”.
Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet colleague Chandrima Bhattacharya added the order by the Centre is illegal. “The state will move court. All relevant procedures were violated. This is pure political vendetta,” she said.
‘What changed in 4 days since extension?’
Bandyopadhyay is a 1987-batch IAS officer who was supposed to report to duty at Delhi Monday morning. He was set to retire on 31 May, but just a week ago, was granted a three-month extension by the Union government on the CM’s request. Bandyopadhyay is the second chief secretary under Mamata Banerjee to have been granted an extension, after Samar Ghosh.
Pointing to the order granting extension, Mamata wrote: “I presume the said order of 24 May 2021 granting extension as chief secretary, issued after mutual written consultations and on the basis of the reasons deliberated upon during such consultation in accordance with due process, stands and ought to stand in any case. In this regard, I seek your kind confirmation in public and in the larger interests of the people of the state of West Bengal in these difficult times.”
In her letter, the CM also wondered what changed in the four days since Alapan Bandyopadhyay was granted the extension. “Does it have something to do with our meeting at Kalaikunda on 28 May? I really and sincerely hope that this latest order is not related to my meeting with you at Kalaikunda. If that be the reason, it would be sad, unfortunate and would amount to sacrificing public interest at the altar of misplaced priorities.”
On 28 May, the CM and the chief secretary skipped a review meeting at Kalaikunda airbase in Bengal, which was to be chaired by PM Modi to assess the damage caused by Cyclone Yaas. When the state government didn’t join, the meeting was cancelled.
Mamata had earlier called the meeting a “political party meet of the BJP”, and wrote in her letter that she rescheduled her meetings in affected districts to attend the PM’s review, but changed her decision after the Centre revised the list of invitees.
“You revised the structure of the meeting to include a local MLA from your party and I am of the view (based on my knowledge of the affairs of the state for about 40 years) that he had no locus to be present in a PM-CM meeting. You had invited the Hon’ble Governor and some Union ministers also to the meeting, which I had not objected to (the Hon’ble Governor had no role to play in this meeting either, as per our Constitutional scheme, as you also very well know, but I am refraining from commenting further in this regard as a gesture of propriety and courtesy), but an individual MLA, having no locus, attending the meeting was unacceptable,” she wrote.
The CM added: “Chief Secretary continually sent messages to officers accompanying you for either getting this sorted or to arrange a meeting between PM and CM.” But they didn’t get a positive response, she said.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)