Two governors and their attitudes are a study in contrast. Uttar Pradesh’s Anandiben Patel never makes news; she didn’t even comment on the heinous murder of the Unnao rape victim. On the contrary, West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankar is forever in the mix. Within a few weeks of his assuming office, he rushed to Jadavpur University and ‘rescued’ Union minister Babul Supriyo from agitating students. It sowed the seeds of discord with the Mamata Banerjee state government. The relation has steadily declined, despite declarations of bonhomie on occasion, like Dhankar’s visit to Mamata’s home.
The state government has adopted an attitude of non-cooperation towards Dhankar. The governor went to north Bengal, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas with the ostensible purpose of reviewing the administration, but district magistrates and other senior officials did not turn up. Later, Dhankar joked about receiving letters from all three DMs, saying they were ‘down with fever’. Then, at the Durga Puja carnival at Calcutta’s Red Road, Dhankar was seated on a separate stage, while Mamata and other guests sat on a prominent stage. A wounded governor later protested shrilly.
Soon after, he started holding meetings with the chambers of commerce with a declared intention of attracting investment. He met students and teachers, mostly disgruntled with the TMC regime. Tension between the constitutional head and the elected government came to such pass that last week the assembly had to be adjourned for two days as six bills, including the West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill 2019, were held back by Dhankar for want of clarifications. After sending prior notice, Dhankar went to the assembly, only to find the gate designated for the governor closed. Contravening protocol, no official was there to receive him (looking at the premises, Dhankar quipped Sholay style, “Itna sannata kyun hai bhai?”).
The same thing played out when Dhankar visited Calcutta University (as ex-officio chancellor). The vice chancellor cancelled a meeting with the governor at the last moment, and was not present when Dhankar reached. Detecting a vicious pattern, Dhankar cried conspiracy. While the state government openly deplores Dhankar’s proactive role, alleging he is trying to run “a parallel government”, they are aware that the former Union minister was right by the Constitution.
During the Left Front rule, when then governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi started visiting sick and closed tea gardens, even issuing a suo moto condemnation of police action in Nandigram, Mamata Banerjee, then the opposition leader, lauded him for his bold initiatives. Now, when the crucial state assembly election is not far off, the chief minister is faced with another governor who, with measured, precipitative moves, is pushing the state towards a constitutional crisis.