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Statement war hints at battle ahead for Bengal governor and TMC

Decision to rescue 'gheraoed' Union minister Babul Supriyo was taken in the 'interest of education and institution'

By TT Bureau in Calcutta
  • Published 21.09.19, 4:20 AM
  • Updated 21.09.19, 4:20 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
Jagdeep Dhankhar and Babul Supriyo sit inside a car after being heckled by left wing students at Jadavpur University on Thursday, September 19, 2019. (PTI)

The slugfest between Raj Bhavan and Trinamul Bhavan over governor Jagdeep Dhankhar’s visit to Jadavpur University to rescue “gheraoed” Union minister Babul Supriyo intensified on Friday with the governor’s office issuing a statement claiming that the decision was taken in the “interest of education and institution”.

“In his capacity as chancellor, being a guardian of the students, he (the governor) took a call so as to connect with students in the interest of education and institution,” said a release from Raj Bhavan.

It was clear that the release was issued in response to a statement that Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee had issued on Thursday night questioning Dhankhar’s move of visiting the campus to “rescue” Supriyo.

Though chief minister Mamata Banerjee refrained from joining the slugfest, senior government officials said that the JU incident would cast a shadow over Nabanna-Raj Bhavan relation.

“The governor hasn’t yet completed two months, but already there is an environment of confrontation,” said a senior bureaucrat.

The trouble began on Thursday afternoon, when Asansol MP Supriyo was held on the JU campus for hours as a section of students were protesting his presence there.

Widely televised, the incident involved physical altercations between Supriyo and groups of students, causing sharp divides in opinions as to whether Supriyo was the instigator or it were the students who had crossed the limit.

Another layer was added to the debate over whether Dhankhar did the right thing by visiting the campus as Chatterjee’s statement mentioned that the governor went to JU despite requests by Mamata not go there and give the government some time to control the situation.

In his statement, the senior Trinamul leader also said that the governor’s decision of going to the campus without informing the state government was both “unfortunate” and “shocking”.

As Dhankhar had indicated to The Telegraph on Thursday night, his office issued a statement on Friday afternoon swatting away Chatterjee’s charges.

The release from Raj Bhavan — sources said that governor himself had dictated its content after going through Chatterjee’s statement — said that before his visit to JU, he had “exhausted all possible avenues” and had taken up the matter with the DGP and the chief secretary and that “as a final step before going”, the governor had connected with the state’s chief minister.

Referring to Chatterjee’s critic of his move, the statement said: “Obviously he did not know of the developments that took place between the governor and the DGP/CS as also the conversation with the Hon’ble Chief Minister.”

The release, however, did not disclose the contents of his exchange with the chief minister.

It also stated that the fact that the VC and the pro VC had left the university even when the Union minister continued to be detained was one of the reasons behind his decision to visit JU.

The Raj Bhavan statement took care to stress that the governor was “conscious of the oath of office” and this was stated to refute Chatterjee’s comment that Trinamul was strongly opposing “his [the Governor’s] political views”.

Trinamul sources said that the party was upset with his general comment on law and order in the state because of “an incident in JU, which has a tradition of such unrest”. “He had spoken like state BJP leaders and that’s why Parthada’s statement was critical of his political views,” said a senior Trinamul leader.

The war of words, sources said, was likely to continue as on Friday evening, Chatterjee issued another statement that reiterated his earlier position.

“What we said yesterday regarding Jadavpur University episode, we stand by it. We always respect the post of governor because it is a Constitutional post. Our expectation is that governor must give justice to vice-chancellor, professors, students. We are always with the teachers and the student communities,” read the statement.

The governor is also unlikely to relent, said a source referring to the last line in his statement. It captured hints that he might explore options available with him to stress his constitutional powers.

“The issue of serious lapses by the university VC, including virtual abandonment of his obligations, and apparent failure of the state police administration in attending to the situations appropriately and inadequate security arrangements for the governor/chancellor during his visit are receiving his attention for way forward steps,” read his statement.

A source said that Dhankhar — being a Supreme Court lawyer — would not have mentioned “way forward steps” had he not been contemplating “some”.

“As the universities are autonomous and law and order is a state subject, Nabanna would not bow down and the confrontation is likely to continue,” said a source.