In the latest of a series of one-up-man-ship between the two political parties Mr Alapan Bandyopadhyay has been served notice by the Centre for skipping a meeting chaired by the PM
Earlier in a letter addressed to PM Narendra Modi, Mamata says at this critical hour, the government of Bengal cannot release, and is not releasing, its Chief Secretary
The venue of the brief interaction of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and erstwhile Chief Secretary of West Bengal Alapan Bandyopadhyay at Kalaikunda air base with PM Narendra Modi
Mr Alapan Bandyopadhyay, who till recently was the Chief Secretary of West Bengal, has been at the core of the latest flashpoint between Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In the latest of a series of one-up-man-ship between the two political parties – one which posted an unprecedented victory over the other in the just concluded Assembly elections – Mr Bandyopadhyay has been served notice by the Centre for skipping a meeting chaired by the PM.
Mr Alapan Bandyopadhyay had yesterday retired as Bengal's Chief Secretary and was immediately appointed Chief Adviser by Mamata Banerjee, who had refused to release him after the Centre ordered his transfer on Friday.
The show-cause notice, under the Disaster Management Act, was put out last evening asking him within three days to explain his absence from PM Modi's meeting on Cyclone Yaas in Bengal. Many experts say the genesis of the all this lies in Mamata’s display of displeasure on a turncoat BJP MLA attending the meeting where his presence was superfluous.
Mamata Banerjee and her team (including Mr Bandyopadhyay) had on Friday begged off a meeting with PM Modi to review the impact of Cyclone Yaas. After a brief interaction at Kalaikunda air base with Modi, where he had landed after an aerial review, Mamata sought his permission and left for other scheduled meetings, and due to bad weather had to fly out for those at the earliest.
Many voices from the just vanquished political entity, said about the incident and Mamata "never before in the history of the Indian Republic has a Chief Minister of a state behaved in such an ugly, disrespectful and arrogant manner" with a Prime Minister and branded her “petulant”.
If that was not enough, the very same evening, Ms Banerjee's top officer, Mr Bandopadhyay, received a recall order and was asked to report to the Centre on Monday. On her part, Mamata hit out at the Centre for not giving a reason for summoning Bengal's top bureaucrat immediately to Delhi, calling it "vendetta" and adding that she had never seen anything so "heartless".
The show cause notice steers clear of the fact that Mr Bandopadhyay, did report to the Centre within the tight deadline, it rather focuses on the review meet controversy where it is said that PM Modi and his entourage waited for nearly 15 minutes for the officers of Bengal government.
"In view of the absence, the Chief Secretary was called by an official as to whether they wanted to participate in the review meeting or not. Thereafter, Chief Secretary arrived along with Chief Minister of West Bengal inside the meeting room and left thereafter immediately."
The show cause notice issued is on the premise that the officer failed to attend a meeting which involved "affairs of the Centre". A ploy to circumvent the law which says it's the state government that can take disciplinary action against an officer working under the state. Here the notice uses the argument that Mr Bandyopadhyay "refused to attend" a review meet called by Centre.
Earlier in a strong worded letter addressed to PM Narendra Modi, "Shocked and Stunned", wrote Mamata Banerjee on the "unilateral order" asking Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay to report to Centre, making it clear that she would not let him go in the middle of her state's Covid fight.
"The government of Bengal cannot release, and is not releasing, its Chief Secretary at this critical hour, on the basis of our understanding that the earlier order of extension, issued after lawful consultation in accordance with applicable laws, remains operational and valid," she wrote in the letter.
"I am sure you will not inflict further suffering on the people of this state by taking away the services of an experienced officer, suddenly without any consultation and with no prior notice, whose continued presence in my state in these difficult times was accepted to be vital and necessary by your government four days back."
In a recall order, the Chief Secretary was ordered to report back to the Centre by 10 AM on May 31.
Taking ‘the-bull-by-the-horns’ Mamata questioned, "Does it have anything to do with our meeting at Kalaikunda?" adding that the order "was legally untenable, historically unprecedented and wholly unconstitutional." She continues, it would be "sad, unfortunate and would amount to sacrificing public interest at the altar of misplaced priorities."
"I wanted to have a quiet word with you, a meeting between the Prime Minister and Chief Minister as usual. You however revised the structure of the meeting to include a local MLA from your party and I am of the view (based on my knowledge of the affairs of the state for about 40 years) that he had no locus to be present at a PM-CM meeting," said Mamata, not naming Suvendu Adhikari.
Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had no role in the meeting either, she added.
The Chief Secretary had repeatedly sent messages to the central team but nothing was done on Suvendu Adhikari, said Ms Banerjee.
"Finally, keeping aside my legitimate reservations, I entered the meeting with the Chief Secretary of my state to hand over the report to you. You personally took the report from my hand, and then I specifically and expressly sought permission from you for us to leave for Digha, our next cyclone-ravaged destination, where a meeting was due and participants were waiting. You expressly permitted us to take our leave," she wrote.
Then, she added, came the "bolt from the blue" in the form of the recall order that she said was a decision taken with "malafide intention and in hot haste".
"I therefore humbly request you to withdraw, recall, reconsider your decision and rescind the latest so-called order in larger public interest," the letter said.