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Editorial: Bitter fruit

Alapan Bandyopadhyay’s treatment by a bullish Centre would enable Mamata to portray Modi and his government as adversarial towards the state and its personnel
Alapan Bandyopadhyay.

The Editorial Board   |   Published 02.06.21, 12:47 AM

Collaboration between the Centre and the states is an endangered species in this federal republic. That may not be a testament to the strength of New India’s federal architecture. But an adversarial Centre — this is yet another legacy of the Narendra Modi regime — cannot be expected to be mindful of the dangerous consequences of the weakening of federalism. There is another — equally worrying — aspect to the slugfest between the Centre and states, especially those that are ruled by Opposition parties. Senior administrative officials in the bureaucracy suffer needlessly as a result of this political tug-of-war. The indignities heaped upon Alapan Bandyopadhyay by the Centre is a case in point. The chief minister of Bengal had written to the prime minister, seeking an extension of Mr Bandyopadhyay’s term as state chief secretary; Mamata Banerjee’s request had been granted. Yet, weeks later, in an unprecedented step, the Centre revoked its decision, asking the state to relieve the then chief secretary and directing Mr Bandyopadhyay to report to the capital. Ms Banerjee’s request to rescind the order was not granted, resulting in Mr Bandyopadhyay rebuffing the Central directive, retiring from service, and opting to serve the Bengal administration in a special capacity. The immediate spark to the fiery flame may be attributed to Ms Banerjee’s decision not to attend a meeting on Cyclone Yaas that was presided by Mr Modi. But at the heart of the matter lie the bitter, fractious ties between the Bharatiya Janata Party — now Bengal’s principal Opposition — and the ruling Trinamul Congress. Mr Bandyopadhyay’s ignominy needs to be read in the context of the continuous attempts by the BJP — ever the sore loser — to needle Ms Banerjee’s government that was returned to power with a massive mandate.

Mr Bandyopadhyay has been served a show-cause notice, but it seems that much like the assembly polls, this round, too, has gone in Ms Banerjee’s favour. Her unstinted support for an embattled public servant would certainly elicit a positive response from the bureaucratic fraternity, encouraging it to engage with her government’s welfare measures with greater vigour. There could be political costs for the BJP too. Bengal has a long tradition of nursing grudges — real and imagined — against an uncaring Centre. Mr Bandyopadhyay’s treatment by a bullish Centre would enable Ms Banerjee to portray Mr Modi and his government as adversarial towards the state and its personnel. The state BJP is apparently worried about this. This episode, by no means, would end the feuding. The real winner is partisan politics with the federal ethos emerging as the loser.



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