The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shah sings own praise in Raj Bhavan

Calcutta, March 12: Days before he relinquished the post last December, Bengal governor Viren J. Shah put up a plaque in the historic Raj Bhavan elaborating on the 'refurbishment of the decaying building and transformation of work culture' done at his and wife Anjana's behest.

The announcement of contribution during his tenure between December 1999 and 2004 has triggered a controversy.

Officials at Raj Bhavan said none of Shah's predecessors, including the late Chakraborti Rajagopalachari, the first governor of Bengal (from 15.08.1947 to 21.06.1948) after Independence, installed plaques to highlight their work.

On the granite slab, installed next to a Buddha statue at the sprawling Marble Hall, Shah has given details of what he and his wife have done for Raj Bhavan during his tenure.

'Thorough renovation, restoration and refurbishment of the Raj Bhavan, its suites, halls, corridors and office spaces, hanging of digital reproduction of paintings on the walls' landscaping of Raj Bhavan lawns and gardens and transformation of work culture done by his excellency Shri Viren J. Shah, governor of West Bengal and Smt. Anjana V. Shah, during the tenure of the governor' declares the plaque.

'This is unbecoming of a governor. Though the public works department maintains the governor's house, I am not aware of any such plaque being installed,' PWD minister Amar Chowdhury said today. 'Some PWD staff posted at Raj Bhavan might have installed it at Shah's instance. But to put up a plaque to highlight some of his achievements is in bad taste,' he added.

Pratap Chandra Chunder, the chairman of the West Bengal Heritage Commission and former Union education minister, also took strong exception to the installation of the stone plate. 'The Raj Bhavan is a heritage structure. How can a governor install a plaque to give an account of what he has done during his tenure' he asked. 'This is not expected from a person in high office.'

Historian Barun De said he had never heard of any governor putting up plaques at Raj Bhavan to detail his or her good work.

'Ancient Hindu rajas used to put up plaques in praise of their work. I don't know whether Shah had drawn inspiration from them,' he added.

Raj Bhavan officials said the plaque was installed a week before Shah left Raj Bhavan on December 14.

When contacted in Mumbai, the former governor said he had done nothing 'unbecoming' of his post. 'My wife and I had worked hard to refurbish the decaying Raj Bhavan and also improve work culture of its staff during my five-year tenure. There is nothing wrong if I put up a plaque following requests from my well-wishers and some visitors to Raj Bhavan,' he said.

Asked about his predecessor, governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi refused to be dragged into controversy. 'I shall not comment,' he said.

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