Mamata Banerjee at a programme in Asansol on Thursday. Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha
Calcutta, Jan. 10: Mamata Banerjee was “shaken” by the comments of governor M.K. Narayanan, who yesterday said the events of the past few days in Bengal were “a kind of goondaism”, Trinamul sources said today.
Although Narayanan had not criticised the government, his statement stood out in sharp contrast against the stand of the government marked by either silence or derision since the attack on CPM veteran Abdur Rezzak Mollah in Bhangar on Sunday.
A Trinamul leader said the chief minister had always believed that Narayanan, a stickler for constitutional propriety, would not openly comment on the law-and-order situation.
Her belief was strengthened when a day after Sunday’s alleged Trinamul attack on MLA Mollah, Narayanan confined himself to saying: “We don’t subscribe to any attack on anyone, including politicians.”
Trinamul leaders close to Mamata said she had not taken into account the possibility that Narayanan, who had served as an upright police officer throughout his long career, would not condone senseless violence beyond a point.
“The kind of violence taking place in the state, especially the attack on a senior person like Rezzak Mollah and a convoy of CPM supporters, and the government’s reluctance to condemn it or rein in the alleged culprits, appears to have pushed the governor to a point where he thought it was appropriate to comment on it,” a Trinamul leader said.
The “problem”, the leader said, was that Mamata had failed to factor in such a response.
The Trinamul sources said Mamata first heard about Narayanan’s comments while she was on her way to Durgapur last evening. She immediately called up party leaders close to her to get more details as she could not watch TV.
The sources said Mamata was especially “shaken” because Raj Bhavan had always played an important role in her politics from her days as an Opposition leader.
Trinamul leaders today recalled with “fondness” the close relationship she shared with former governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and how he had tried to resolve the Singur impasse.
“Gandhi had even visited the dais at Metro channel where Mamata was fasting over the Singur issue. He had repeatedly requested her to call off the fast,” a leader said.
During Gandhi’s days as governor, he had got then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Mamata to come to Raj Bhavan to sign a doomed pact in an attempt resolve the Singur issue.
When in the Opposition, Mamata had made it a point to visit the governor and inform him of “atrocities” by CPM cadres, both during Gandhi’s time as well Narayanan’s.
After coming to power, Mamata kept looking at Raj Bhavan as a source of support and advice. Right after the swearing-in, she had said she would hold weekly meetings with governor Narayanan to keep him informed of policy decisions and to discuss important issues.
Mamata was “extremely happy” when Narayanan praised her government for curbing the Maoist violence on a number of occasions. He also lauded the chief minister’s initiative to get the rebels to the talks table. He called it an “act of generosity”.
The governor had a good word on law and order when in July, then Union home minister P. Chidambaram visited the state and came down heavily on the government on political clashes.
Narayanan had also raised the cause of the cash-strapped state with the Centre during his visits to Delhi.
The Trinamul sources, however, felt signs of strains had been emerging in recent times. “At times, the governor called up ministers and officers to discuss topical issues. She was not always pleased with it,” a source said.
Narayanan appeared critical of the way the government handled the attacks on teachers by students who had failed in their pre-board exams.
For Mamata, the ties with the Governor’s House have come a full circle, as she too has started walking the path the Left had taken: remain suspicious of Raj Bhavan.
A Trinamul leader said: “We do not know for sure, but it is unlikely that a seasoned politician like Subrata Mukherjee would remark on the governor’s comments without the endorsement of the chief minister. Let’s see where it goes from here.”
Rabeya Begum, in her mid-thirties, today waved a letter at Mamata during the chief minister’s speech at a Burdwan rally. Rabeya had written about frequent political clashes in Raina.
Mamata said: “I don’t like such disturbance during my meetings. If you have anything to tell me, come to my home or office. If people approach me like this in my meetings, I don’t do their work.”