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Narayanan puts in his papers

- Farewell suspense for ‘guardian’
Narayanan at the Indian Museum on Saturday. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta

Calcutta, June 30: Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan today put in his papers, prompting the Mamata Banerjee government to rue the imminent departure of a “guardian” although it had its fair share of skirmishes with him.

The resignation of Narayanan was expected after the BJP-headed Union home ministry conveyed to some UPA-appointed governors that it would not be unhappy if they vacated the Raj Bhavans before their tenures ended.

The suspense is whether chief minister Mamata Banerjee will now borrow a leaf from the Left book and give Narayanan a farewell to remember and the Narendra Modi government a loud message.

For the record, Mamata said in response to a question: “Farewell keno debo? Aaami bidaye biswas kari na, agamane biswas kari, (Why will I give farewell? I believe in saying hello and not good bye).”

In Bengal, at least one farewell was loaded with more political significance than the regulation welcoming events.

A senior bureaucrat recalled how the erstwhile Left Front government made its displeasure known on the appointment of a new governor by giving a rousing farewell to the outgoing dignitary.

“In 1980, the Centre replaced T.N. Singh with B.P. Pande who had retired as the cabinet secretary. Some Left leaders suspected that Pande was sent to dismiss their government…. So, they organised a gala farewell for Singh at the then Great Eastern Hotel, and almost the entire cabinet went to Howrah station to see him off,” the bureaucrat said.

Mamata, who rarely misses a political chance, laid more stress on the “hello” today but sources said that a programme to honour Narayanan could not be ruled out as it would help the Trinamul government express solidarity with a governor the Modi government did not try to retain.

Narayanan’s official tenure was till January 24, 2015.

Narayanan is expected to continue to hold charge until the Union home ministry formally accepts his resignation.

Mamata said the governor would leave only on July 4. Before that, a mini-cabinet shuffle will take place at Raj Bhavan on July 2.

Education minister Partha Chatterjee, who used to maintain regular contact with Raj Bhavan, referred to the governor as the “guardian”, besides heaping praise on him.

“I am deeply hurt by the sudden resignation of the governor. I got him (Narayanan) as my guardian both as an Opposition leader and in my capacity as minister. Now I shall be missing him,” Chatterjee said.

“We did not expect him to leave his office in this manner. Those who made him resign, could only say what good will it do,” the minister added. Chatterjee said he had spoken to Narayanan during the day and would meet him again tomorrow.

Although the government had only good words for Narayanan today, matters have always not been that smooth.

The first jarring note was struck when the government set the stage in haste for an ordinance to reclaim the Singur land although the Assembly was in session.

Ordinances — a temporary measure meant for contingencies — are not promulgated when the House is in session as such issues are expected to be decided by elected representatives. The Raj Bhavan went along with the ordinance, which was later scrapped, apparently because it was misled by the government.

There have been other occasions, too, when the Raj Bhavan and the government were not on the same page — mostly on education.

When Narayanan, in his capacity as chancellor of Jadavpur University, had picked Souvik Bhattacharyya as vice-chancellor from a list of three candidates recommended by a search panel, the state government had lobbied for Abhijit Chakrabarti, the interim vice-chancellor then as well as now. Eventually, Bhattacharyya was picked.

Last year, when the state government decided to resume students’ union elections in colleges and universities, the chancellor repeatedly advocated — even in public —that such polls should be held on apolitical lines in keeping with the Lyngdoh Commission recommendations.

In February this year, Raj Bhavan declined to extend the tenure of Malabika Sarkar, the then Presidency University interim vice-chancellor, till October though the state government was pressing for it.

In January last year, Narayanan drew flak from senior state minister Subrata Mukherjee for speaking against campus violence. Mukherjee said the governor should not speak “like a partyman” and the government was showing Narayanan a “yellow card”.

“There have been few instances of a dip in the relationship between the governor and the state government…. But overall relations were good,” said a senior officer.