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6 Jul 2017

Governor strains at the leash - Raj Bhavan does what it accused CM of

TT, Calcutta, July 5: The Bengal Raj Bhavan today publicly asked the chief minister to maintain peace "without making any distinction on the basis of caste, creed or community" instead of making accusations against governor Keshari Nath Tripathi.
The public statement with some abrasive edges was pitched as a response to criticism from a Trinamul minister but it left the Raj Bhavan vulnerable to charges that it was doing exactly what it had preached Mamata Banerjee not to practise.
In another statement yesterday, the Raj Bhavan had said interactions between the chief minister and the governor were confidential in nature and none was expected to make them public. The statement was in response to Mamata's disclosure that the governor had insulted and threatened her over phone while discussing communal strife in North 24-Parganas.
Less than 24 hours later, statecraft was conducted in full public glare when the Raj Bhavan issued the statement that was described as "unusually political" by critics.
In the morning, Trinamul leader and education minister Partha Chatterjee had said Tripathi had overstepped constitutional bounds and demanded an "expression of regret". "Yesterday, the governor crossed all constitutional limits.... The way he spoke to the chief minister yesterday, he has forgotten that this is not Uttar Pradesh," Chatterjee added.
The Raj Bhavan responded to Chatterjee's words as well as the deed of writing to the President.
"The Governor has been apprised of the statement of Shri Partha Chatterjee... and regrets to say that this is an attempt to cover the lapses of the State Government and divert the attention from the main issue of law and order," the statement read.
The statement mentioned that the governor was "fully aware of his constitutional obligations and limitations and needed no lesson from anyone on this count".
The statement had several assertive sentences but the one that is expected to touch a raw nerve in the government is what looks like a mere retelling of a truism: "maintain peace and law and order without making any distinction on the basis of caste, creed or community".
Sources close to Mamata had said that the governor, during his call yesterday, had accused police of doing nothing while one community was on the rampage and another was being targeted. The version could not be corroborated with the Raj Bhavan but the statement today suggests the governor felt the government should be reminded of its non-partisan responsibility.
The chief minister was unequivocal yesterday in her warning to both communities, saying she would not tolerate hooliganism.
Mamata had yesterday questioned a nominated governor's authority in questioning the chief minister who is elected by the people.
Today, the Raj Bhavan tried to justify the intervention. "... it should not be forgotten that the Governor is also appointed by the President on the recommendation of a democratically elected Union Government. In fact, the allegations of the Chief Minister amount to insulting and humiliating the Governor and his Office."
The Raj Bhavan also suggested that it would continue to lend an ear to grievances, possibly responding to the Trinamul charge that it had become an "RSS shakha".
"The Governor is of the view that Raj Bhavan is not a Department of the State Government and it is open to every citizen to approach him for redressal of his or her grievances. It is wrong to say that Raj Bhavan has become the office of the BJP or the RSS," the statement said.
Using language rarely seen in staid official communication, the Raj Bhavan added that it is "not expected to tear off or throw in the waste paper basket the representations received by the Governor or his office from any person".
Iterating that Tripathi did not utter "a single word to insult or threaten" Mamata, the statement accused her of trying to emotionally blackmail the people.
A political scientist said the governor had shown restraint yesterday and had spoken about the propriety and secrecy of conversations between him and the chief minister while Mamata had gone public. "Today, the governor did the same thing. If what she did yesterday was not proper, he stooped to that level today," said political scientist Biswanath Chakraborty.
Although Mamata held a news conference in Nabanna after the statement from the Raj Bhavan this afternoon, she refused to take questions on the issue. But senior minister Subrata Mukherjee said: "What the governor has said today makes it clear that he is a totapakhi (parrot) of the BJP."
Late tonight, sources said the governor had sent a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee. "He made it clear in his letter about the complaints he had received on the violence. He also made the President aware of his conversation with the chief minister," a source said. Minister Chatterjee had earlier written to the President about the governor's call to Mamata.

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