Launching a high-decibel attack on Governor K.N. Tripathi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday accused him of threatening and insulting her, prompting the Raj Bhavan to issue a denial and express surprise at her “attitude and language”. Backing Banerjee, senior state minister Subrata Mukherjee reprimanded Tripathi for “adopting a tone of hatred” during his telephonic talk with Banerjee, and virtually challenged the governor to “do what he can”.
However, the state opposition parties contended that the Chief Minister should not have made public her private conversation with the Governor, and regretted that a clash between the state’s constitutional head and the administrative head would only help those trying to engineer communal polarisation in the eastern state.
Using unusually strong language, Banerjee alleged at a media meet that the Governor spoke like a functionary of the Bharatiya Janata Party instead of the state’s constitutional head, and said that at one point she, unable to take the humiliation, felt like quitting.
“The Governor told me many things today. I have been deeply insulted and humiliated by the comments of the Governor… He has threatened me and talked to me like a block president of the BJP. I I have told him ‘you cannot talk to me like this. I hold an elected constitutional post’,” said an angry Banerjee.
Iterating that Tripathi called up her on her phone, she said: “The post of Governor is a constitutional post, he has to follow the constitutional norms. Mine is also a constitutional post.
“I have not come to power at his mercy. I have come to the power because of the mandate of the people, whereas the Governor has been nominated by the centre.”
“We are not servants. He is a constitutional post holder, I respect him. He should reciprocate by showing respect to me also. I run a government. After today’s insult, at one point I thought I would quit. I have not been insulted like this anytime in the past,” said Banerjee, also the Trinamool Congress supremo.
Banerjee said Tripathi spoke to him regarding some trouble between two communities since Monday.
“He is showing me law and order. Why will he take sides? Can’t he speak for both sides? When any small incident happens, BJP workers hand him a piece of paper and he speaks what not,” she added.
A little later, Raj Bhavan came out with a press release, saying the Governor was “surprised” at the “attitude and language” used by the Chief Minister at the media meet, and reminded her that talks between a Chief Minister and a Governor “were confidential in nature and none are expected to disclose it”.
“However, there was nothing in the talks for which the Hon’ble Chief Minister may have felt insulted, threatened or humiliated.”
According to the Raj Bhavan, Tripathi told Banerjee to “ensure peace and law and order by all means” and stressed that the Governor, being the constitutional head of the state, cannot remain a “mute spectator to the affairs”.
Participating in a television talk show, Rural Development and Public Health Engineering Minister Mukherjee deplored the “behaviour” of the Governor with another constitutional functionary and said “the way she has been insulted is a matter of regret”.
But the state opposition parties thought otherwise.
“Governor is the constitutional head in the state. The way the Chief Minister has openly talked about her conversation with the Governor in a public forum, in spite of swearing in to follow the constitution, is untenable. This is an insult to constitutional norms,” Left Front legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty told IANS.
State Bharatiya Janata Party chief Dilip Ghosh held Banerjee responsible for the recent lapse in law and order in the state and said people are being compelled to go to the Governor due to this.
“If the Governor asks her why the state administration is not able to maintain the law and order situation properly, what is there to feel insulted? Why is she terming this as an insult?” he asked.