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Raj Bhavan-Mamata face-off again

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Kolkata, Sep 29: Opening up a fresh round of battle with the Mamata Banerjee government, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Monday said it has turned West Bengal into a 'police state' and threatened to "look into" Article 154 of the Constitution alleging that his office has been ignored for long by the ruling dispensation.

Article 154 of the Constitution mandates that the executive power of the state shall be vested in the Governor and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinates to him.

Raj Bhavan-Mamata face-off again

The Trinamool Congress was quick to hit back accusing the governor of "tarnishing his post" and said that he should "take up the post of the state BJP president instead".

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Dhankhar slammed the state government for turning down a Raj Bhawan request to increase the budget allocation for it - an additional Rs 53.5 lakh to meet its everyday expenses.

The governor said he wouldn't allow Raj Bhawan to be compromised and the behaviour of the state government "is unacceptable".

Contending that the TMC government has turned West Bengal into a "police state", Dhankhar said "A police state is the first enemy of democracy. Police state and democracy don't go hand in hand. Police personnel are working as cadres of the ruling TMC."

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    He also claimed that the police in Bengal are "in servitude of extra-constitutional authorities" and criticised Director General of Police, Virendra for being irresponsible and callous" in his response to a letter from Raj Bhawan.

    "If the Constitution is not protected, I have to act.

    The office of the governor has been ignored for long. I will be forced to look into Article 154 of the Constitution," he said at a press meet here.

    Keeping up his attack, Dhankhar said that the "electronic surveillance by the TMC government" has forced him to communicate over WhatsApp voice calls.

    "Law and order has collapsed completely in the state.

    Maoist insurgency is raising its head. Terror modules are also operating from this state," the governor, who has been at loggerheads with the TMC government since he assumed office in July 2019, insisted.

    The latest flashpoint between the state government and Dhankhar was a letter he had written to DGP Virendra earlier this month expressing concern over the law and order situation in the state.

    Following the DGP's one-line reply saying "The police adhere to the path laid down by the law", Dhankhar had asked the state police chief to meet him by September 26.

    Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a letter to the governor on September 26 expressed anguish over his letter to the DGP and urged him to "act within the mandate of the Constitution".

    Reminding Banerjee that he was a "stakeholder in matters of governance", Dhankhar said the CM is under the misconception that the post of Governor is a mere "post-office or a rubber stamp".

    A combative referred to Banerjee's sit-in here last year in protest against the CBI's attempt to question the then Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar as part of a chit fund scam probe. "To shield those who need to be held accountable is (akin to) signalling the death knell of democratic governance.

    "Earlier it was by way of a physical stance and now it is via a letter," he said.

    Dhankhar, who had dashed off a four-page letter to Banerjee conveying his grievances, wondered what is wrong in the governor seeking a response from the DGP on "the deteriorating law and order situation in the wake of political violence, political vendetta, ruthless quelling of opposition, incessant extortion by syndicates and frequent hurling of bombs."

    The governor also expressed dissatisfaction over the TMC government's refusal to allocate Rs 53.5 lakh to meet everyday expenses and said it is the constitutional duty of the state government to provide funds for the Raj Bhawan.

    "What is this joke? The chief minister has opened the purse strings of the finance department ... (there is) free distribution of money and it claims to have no funds for the Raj Bhawan for Rs 30 - 40 lakhs. Even the allocated funds have been denied!" he said.

    The state government expressed its inability to allot more funds due to the austerity measures adopted for the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The faceoff between Raj Bhawan and the state government also set off a political storm in the state with the ruling TMC wondering whether the "governor has taken over the mantle of the state BJP president".

    Senior TMC leader and state minister Subrata Mukherjee said, "Instead of demeaning the post of the governor, he (Dhankhar) should take over as state BJP president. If BJP or opposition parties say such things, it is acceptable. But such comments coming from a governor is unfortunate.

    "He (Dhankhar) is tarnishing the post of the governor for his vested political interests," Mukherjee said.

    The opposition Congress and BJP came out in support of the governor and said democratic and constitutional rights had been compromised during the TMC regime.

    "The Governor did the right thing by pointing out the lacunae and the unconstitutional approach of the state government, which has been ignoring constitutional norms," West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.

    Echoing him, Leader of Opposition and senior Congress leader Abdul Mannan said the TMC government in Bengal has been destroying all democratic and constitutional norms since it came to power in 2011.

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