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5 Jul 2017

Humiliated, threatened by governor: Mamata Banerjee

TNN, Kolkata, 4 July 2017: Heads of state Mamata Banerjee and Keshari Nath Tripathi — were on a collision course like never before over the communal flare-up and arson in North 24 Parganas' Basirhat close to the Indo-Bangladesh border on Tuesday, with the chief minister saying she felt "insulted and humiliated" by the manner in which the Bengal governor "threatened her over phone". The furious chief minister said the governor was behaving like a BJP block president.

"This is not what I deserve after being in politics since I was in my teens. I felt so humiliated that I thought of stepping aside. The governor holds a constitutional post, so do I. He should understand that he is a nominated person. I am elected by the people. He sounded like a BJP block president. The governor should play a non-partisan role. Instead, I find him acting on the complaints of BJP leaders only," the CM said at a press meet shortly after the governor spoke to her on the continuing mob frenzy in large stretches of North 24 Parganas, from Barasat to Baduria.

Taken aback with the tone and tenor of the CM's reaction, Raj Bhavan later issued a press statement saying: "The governor can't remain a mute spectator of the affairs in the state."

The governor called up the CM late in the afternoon after a BJP delegation called on him seeking his intervention against the "lawlessness in North 24 Parganas". The BJP team, led by Jayprakash Majumdar, appealed to Tripathi to call out paramilitary forces since the police had failed to restore order. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh, who was away in Kharagpur, later said: "I have heard what the CM said but I am unaware of what the governor told her. I can only say that being an elected head doesn't give the CM liberty to do whatever she does. The governor can ask the CM about the state's failure to control lawlessness. She could call out the Army in the Hills, but refrained from doing so in Basirhat," Ghosh said.

The war of words between the CM and the governor has no precedence in the state's political history though in the past the ruling party of the day had run-ins with the governor on several occasions. Banerjee's predecessor, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, didn't react to then governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi's "cold horror" statement after the Nandigram carnage. Bhattacharjee gave vent to his angst against Gandhi much later in his book — Phire Dekha II — when he was no longer the CM.

Trouble erupted in Basirhat after an objectionable Facebook post by a local class XII student went viral triggering tension. While the student was arrested on Monday, violence and arson began around Monday afternoon night and continued through Tuesday.

The chief minister on her part isn't quite happy with the role of the police in Basirhat. "They (police) should have blocked the Facebook post after the troublemaker was arrested. At the same time, I condemn sections of a particular community who blocked roads and continued with the rage for the last 24 hours despite several negotiations. At least, 200 people would have died had the police opened fire on the mob. Instead, we insisted on engaging them in a dialogue with patience. We couldn't sleep last night. Don't mistake my patience as weakness," the CM said.

The CM didn't spare a section of Muslim leaders who have been inflaming passions against money. "Let me tell you that the Ma Mati Manush government has given protection to the community. But that doesn't give you the leave to use this against the government. I have to take the insult because of you. I won't take it lying down," she said.

Banerjee, however, saw in the inciting Facebook post a saffron "design" to stoke communal passions in the state. "This has become a phenomenon now. Plant stories in the social media, follow it up and fan passions. You can see members of Bajrang Dal, Hindu Sanhati, making such posts across the social media. I would advise you to counter such views, as they have done this time posting false photographs and giving exaggerated accounts. I have respect for Ramakrishna Mission and Bharat Sevashram Sangha that are doing good work but not for these leaders," the CM said

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