Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar entered a fresh war of words Monday as they questioned each other on charges of corruption after the governor’s visit to north Bengal.
Banerjee called the state’s highest constitutional authority “corrupt”, adding that Dhankhar was named in the 1996 Jain Hawala case’s charge sheet.
In response, Dhankhar stopped short of calling the CM a liar, but labelled the allegations as “crudest misinformation” spread by a “seasoned politician to sensationalise”. He added that Yashwant Sinha, ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC)’s vice-president and former union finance minister, and late Ajit Panja, a former TMC MLA, were named in the said charge sheet even as all were “acquitted”.
The fresh standoff was triggered after the governor, who returned from a week-long visit to north Bengal Monday, said that he would have the accounts of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General as “the public money meant for the development of areas under the GTA has been looted”.
Banerjee questioned the need for the move since the state government had already audited the accounts.
‘Centre should remove governor’
After the governor made the allegations, CM Mamata Banerjee held a press conference at Nabanna in Kolkata Monday.
Reacting to the governor’s allegations, the CM called him a “corrupt man”, adding that his Raj Bhavan should be “investigated”.
“His name was there in the Jain Hawala scandal of 1996. He was charge sheeted. But, later he moved court and got his name cleared. However, another petition was filed in this regard and it is still pending,” said Banerjee.
She claimed that the governor was trying to “fuel unrest in north Bengal”, adding that he was holding meetings with all Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) functionaries, including those who wanted to divide Bengal.
“He has advised some political groups to start agitation in the area. Is it the governor’s duty? I have never seen such a governor. I have written three letters to the Centre seeking his removal, and it is high time the Centre should consider this,” said the CM.
She also said that the governor tries to intimidate her officers by saying that they are “under scanner” or a “cruel letter” is coming to them.
Around an hour after the CM’s press meet in the evening, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar held a counter press meet at the Raj Bhavan, saying that he is still exercising “restraint and trying to be patient” with the CM even as Banerjee is “crossing limits”.
“A senior and seasoned politician like her is creating sensation by spreading crudest misinformation. I can understand her anxiety,” he said.
“Let me tell you that the governor’s name was never there in the charge sheet, but I can tell who all were included in the charge sheet. One of them was former finance minister Yashwant Sinha. All of the charge sheeted persons were acquitted in the case. Anybody can check with the Supreme Court order related to the case,” he added.
He also said that he sent a letter to the CM Monday, after which he got a call from her.
“I wrote to her that I had the benefit of going through the draft of the governor’s address for the upcoming assembly session. I would appreciate a deliberation on this with the chief minister in this regard. Hours after the letter reached her, I got a call from her stating she could not do anything about it as it was a cabinet decision,” he said.
“Around 10 minutes after the telephonic conversation, she held the press conference and labelled such unsubstantiated allegations against me. But let me reiterate, these optics will not stop me from doing my duty,” he added.
However, he said that he would refrain from taking any legal action, because “in the history of this country, an elder brother cannot take legal action against his sister”.
“I will keep asking questions,” he said.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)