Kolkata: West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi Friday with a list of complaints against the Mamata Banerjee government. Among other issues concerning the state, he briefed the home minister about alleged use of public money on advertisements promoting the state government stand on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed by Parliament.
This was the first time in his seven months as the governor that Dhankhar met Shah, and the appointment had been sought by the governor, the Raj Bhavan said in a statement.
“There has been massive misuse of public funds for propagating political agenda of the ruling party,” Dhankhar said after the meeting in Delhi.
He was referring to an advertisement featuring Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with a tagline, ‘No CAA, No NRC, No NPR’, which appeared on television and other mediums in December last year.
During his meeting with Shah, the governor also discussed some other “critical” issues, including the ongoing protests against the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). He apprised Shah about some “activities” that are “provoking violence” as the state has been witnessing political clashes.
“There are instances of serious political victimisation. On account of political considerations, basic human rights of people were being compromised to an unacceptable degree,” Dhankhar said.
‘Unabated violence and intimidation’
Complaining about the law and order situation in Bengal, Dhankhar said, “There were so many blasts, so many lives were lost. Someone even pointed out that there was destruction of evidence too. The state has been inflicted with violence for several years now.”
He said every election was riddled violence. “I met the state election commissioner. He must not act as a rubber stamp. The elections in 2013 and 2018 were really critical. Unabated violence and intimidation led to withdrawal of candidature.”
The governor also mentioned the incidents at Jadavpur University and Calcutta University where he was not allowed to attend convocations as the chancellor, and said no action was taken by the police in this regard.
“Very sorry state of affairs in Bengal. Governor cannot discharge his statutory duties. No action taken by the police authorities against a handful of people who stopped me from discharging my duties at Jadavpur and Calcutta universities.”
Stating that there was no democracy in the state as his address before the budget session was “blacked out” by the government, Dhankhar said, “I raised the issue with the chief minister as it was a terrible and unacceptable failure on the part of a state. CM was on the backfoot. She said that the speaker would respond to this.”
Dhankhar reached Delhi Thursday night for the meeting with Amit Shah.
The home minister was in Kolkata on 1 March, when he addressed a public rally in the city, but there was no meeting scheduled between him and Dhankhar on the day.
The meeting between Dhankhar and Shah comes at a time when municipal elections are scheduled to be held in West Bengal in a month’s time, and the ruling Trinamool Congress is gearing up for the assembly elections due in 2021.
Measures against ‘misuse of public funds’
Speaking to ThePrint, Raj Bhavan sources said the governor during his meeting with Shah might have recommended some measures against the alleged misuse of public funds by the Mamata Banerjee government on the advertisements “promoting a political agenda”.
While the advertisements had been withdrawn after a Calcutta High Court order in December, the Raj Bhavan had earlier this month written to the state authorities concerned seeking details about the funding for them and involvement of government officials, but did not receive a response, the sources said.
At least six petitions were filed in the High Court against the use of money from the government exchequer to fund and promote the Trinamool’s political stand against the CAA. The court had directed the state to take down all such publications.
During his meeting with Shah, the sources told ThePrint, the governor might have also submitted his report about the presence of some senior government officials in these advertisements.
In its letter to the state government on February 4, the Raj Bhavan had sought to know how much money was spent on advertisements against the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), who were the officials featuring in them with the CM, and who had ordered the campaign.
The letter said senior administrative and police functionaries, including the chief and home secretaries and the DGP, appeared by the side of the CM in the ads, according to a PTI report.
Responding to the letter, a senior leader of the ruling Trinamool Congress had said the governor was crossing his “constitutional brief”.
“The governor, from the very beginning, has been trying to interfere in matters of the state government. This is completely absurd that he is seeking details (on the alleged misuse of public funds),” the PTI report said quoting the leader, who did not wish to be named.
Also read: Off The Cuff with Jagdeep Dhankhar