"I used to get irritated seeing his (governor's) tweet every day," West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.

A collage of Mamata Banerjee and Jagdeep Dhankar
news Controversy Tuesday, February 01, 2022 - 09:59

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday, January 31 that she has "blocked" Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Twitter, accusing the Raj Bhawan occupant of treating "everybody as a bonded labourer." The former Supreme Court lawyer dexterously navigated the hurdle, approaching the tempestuous TMC boss on WhatsApp to stress on the importance of "dialogue and harmony" in democracy. The seemingly unending tug of war between the TMC government and Raj Bhawan reached a new low when Banerjee told a press conference she had blocked Dhankhar's official Twitter handle because of his posts repeatedly targeting her government. The row over the Pegasus spyware came in handy for the chief minister to attack Dhankhar. "Pegasus is being used from Raj Bhawan," she alleged.

Banerjee, who accused Dhankhar of threatening senior state government officials like the chief secretary and state police chief, claimed the governor endorses "BJP goons who are involved in killing people in Bengal every day." Dhankhar hit right back, referring to Article 167 of the Constitution to remind the chief minister of her "constitutional duty" to furnish information related to the administration of the affairs of the State and proposals for legislation.

"I have blocked the governor from my Twitter account. I had no option. I am sorry about this. (I blocked him) Because I used to get irritated seeing his (governor's) tweet every day. In his tweets, he used to speak in a way that is not humane. He will tweet every day, abuse officials and sometimes abuse and accuse me. He does these things by speaking in abusive, unethical and unconstitutional way," she said.

Dhankhar's response was quick, as he insisted on Twitter that Article 159 of the Constitution mandates nobody in the state blocks Constitutional Norms and Rules of Law" and those in authority bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India.

"Under Article 167 it is Constitution(al) duty of the Chief Minister to furnish such information relating to the administration of the affairs of the State and proposals for legislation as the Governor may call for. Why block information to Guv now for two years? he wrote. Banerjee declared she will not countenance any attempt at forcing an elected government to act at a bonded labourer.

Accusing Dhankhar of acting like a "super pehredar (watchman)", she said the governor was not clearing files and bills forwarded to him, including those related to the Howrah Municipal Corporation and Bally municipality.

"Even though it (the governor's) is a nominated post, he is sitting at the top like a super pehredar," she alleged, and reminded Dhankhar of the Sarkaria Commission report on Centre-State relations.

She claimed the Governor does not consult her on important issues related to the administration of the state which the Commission mandated. Dhankhar, always game for a fight with the state government, wrote on Twitter he had emphasised on the importance of "dialogue and harmony" in a WhatsApp message to Banerjee which he had "read".

"WB Guv Message to Hon'ble CM on her WHATSAPP today and read by her at 10.25 am today- Dialogue and harmony amongst constitutional functionaries is essence and spirit of democracy and mandate of the constitution. This can blossom with mutual regard and respect.

"There has been all through highest personal regard for you from my side. Am sure this will receive your thoughtful consideration. Regards," he wrote in a series of tweets.

It was not immediately known when Banerjee blocked Dhankhar on Twitter and whether the latter's advice about harmony between the constitutional functionaries on WhatsApp came after she had decided to choke his tweets to prevent them from reaching her.

An angry Banerjee said she has written four letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the recall of Dhankhar but in vain.

"The governor endorses the BJP goons who are killing people in Bengal every day and is encouraging them. I will still ask the prime minister why he has not been withdrawn even after I wrote four letters to him," she said, adding a similar demand for recall of then governor Dharam Vira was made by the Communists in the late 1960s. Dharam Vira had dismissed the Left government led by Ajay Mukherjee.

Banerjee alleged the governor was summoning officials and threatening them.

"He cannot do this. At the most, he can tell the chief minister. He is threatening people, starting from (officials in) courts, Enforcement Directorate, CBI, Customs and police commissioner of Kolkata, DG, chief secretary, home secretary, principal secretaries, DMs, and the SPs. What does he think of himself?" a livid Banerjee said.

The sparring between Raj Bhawan and the government set off a political storm with the Bengal BJP leadership standing firmly behind Dhankhar and the TMC openly asking whether the "governor has taken over the mantle of an opposition leader."

"The chief minister is trying to hide facts and that is why she has blocked the governor on Twitter. This is unprecedented in a democratic country," BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said.

On Banerjee's allegation against the governor about snooping, he said, it is the state government that is spying on opposition leaders. Minutes after Banerjee declared she has blocked Dhankhar on Twitter, several TMC leaders followed suit.

TMC leader in Rajya Sabha Derek O'Brien and senior party leader Sougata Roy said they too are blocking "the Tweet-a-Minute governor of Bengal" on Twitter and WhatsApp.

TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh alleged the governor has taken over the mantle of "state BJP working president" and is trying to divert attention from the infighting in the saffron camp.

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