Dhankhar slams minister for ‘CM as interim chancellor’ talk

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The stand-off between the TMC government and Raj Bhavan in West Bengal intensified on Sunday with Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar hitting out at Education Minister Bratya Basu for suggesting that Governor should be replaced from the titular post of chancellor of state-run universities.

Calling that the minister’s comments “inappropriate”, the governor said that Basu should have spoken with him first.

“I was astonished to see the Education Minister, who should have consulted me, saying that they are thinking of making the chief minister the chancellor (of the state universities),” Dhankhar said, adding sarcastically “I would tell him that in addition to making her (chief minister Mamata Banerjee) the chancellor, they should also make the chief minister the Governor”.

Dhankhar, who reached Bagdogra for his visit to North Bengal districts on Sunday, was reacting to Bratya Basu’s remark on Friday in which he had said that the state government was considering a proposal to nominate Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as interim chancellor of all state universities.

He had also tweeted that there was a need to “introspect” on whether the state needs to continue with the colonial legacy of the governor being ex-officio chancellor of all state-run universities and eminent scholars should be appointed instead.

“If files are kept pending for his (Governor’s) assent for an indefinite period and he continues to show little cooperation, we can think of implementing what the Governor of Kerala [Arif Mohammad Khan] has said… if needed we will look at the Constitutional aspect of it and seek legal opinion to have the chief minister as the chancellor of the state universities for an interim period,” the Education Minister had said on Friday.

Dhankar had earlier called a meeting of chancellors and vice-chancellors of private universities in the state in his capacity as Visitor on December 18. However, the meeting had fallen through as most heads of universities had excused themselves. An attempt to hold the meeting on December 23 also fell through, and the Governor had taken to the social media to call the development “shocking unionism”.

An earlier attempt by him to call a meeting of vice-chancellors or executive heads of state-run universities had also ended without any bothering to attend.

The Governor, meanwhile, reiterated that he had not given his assent to the Howrah Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, adding that a submission made by the state advocate general before the Calcutta High Court to this effect may be “erroneous”.

“There is no paper, letter, discussion, consideration before the governor with regard to the bifurcation of Howrah Municipal Corporation and creation of Bally municipality,” he said.

The governor had earlier said that he had sent back the Bill for excluding areas of erstwhile Bally municipality from Howrah Municipal Corporation on November 24 with queries that were yet to be answered.

“It is wrong for the Advocate General to submit before the high court that the governor has given assent to the Bill,” he said.

State Advocate General S N Mookherjee on Friday told the Calcutta High Court that the governor has given his assent to the bill, paving the way for holding separate elections to the two bodies.

Trinamool Congress MP Sougata Roy, however, said that the state had sent its reply to the questions raised by the governor regarding the bill which was earlier passed in the West Bengal Assembly.

“He (governor) is deliberately trying to delay  elections of Howrah Municipal Corporation and Bally Municipality … this is purely politically motivated,” he said,

questioning Dhankhar’s assertion that he did not give his assent to the Bill.

BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh, on the other hand, charged that the Mamata Banerjee government was trying to turn the governor into a rubber stamp. “This is not good for the constitutional set-up,” Ghosh said.

The governor also targeted Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee for criticising him.

Banerjee had said on Saturday that he has written to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing Dhankhar of his “interference” in legislative matters.

“The Speaker should be aware of the duties and responsibilities of the position. On two occasions, my address to the House was blacked out. This reminded me of the Emergency era. Even when I first went to visit the Assembly, the gates were locked. Such a conduct of the Speaker cannot be countenanced,” Dhankhar said.

Sougata Roy, however, took an exception to Dhankhar’s comments on the Speaker and said the Governor was “crossing the limits”.

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