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Governor in Assembly amid BJP ruckus, no live telecast of proceedings

On Sunday, Dhankhar and Speaker Biman Bose met to discuss ‘blackout’ of address that’s been on since the budget session of 2020
Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
File picture.

Arnab Ganguly   |   Calcutta   |   Published 07.03.22, 01:01 PM

When Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar takes the dais at 2pm on Monday to read his speech to mark the beginning of the budget session of the state Assembly, there is a question mark on whether his customary address, prepared by the Mamata Banerjee government, will be telecast live or not.

  • At 1.55 pm on Monday, governor Jagdeep Dhankhar entered the Assembly building with his hands folded across his chest to greet those present, accompanied by Speaker Biman Banerjee, while chief minister Mamata Banerjee waited at a distance.
  • But he could not start his speech till 2.15 pm as BJP legislators stormed the Well of the House to protest against the "rigged" civic polls.
  • The Governor was last seen walking ahead of a sea of men, before the television channels blacked out the rest of the proceedings. 
  • A little earlier, while waiting for the Governor, who garlanded the statue of B.R. Ambedkar before proceeding to the main building, Mamata chatted with reporters about her flight ordeal while returning to Calcutta from Varanasi on Friday evening.
  • She blamed another incoming flight for the turbulence her own flight experienced. 
  • "The weather was fine. There was no trouble. Another aircraft came in the way. We were saved by the quick thinking of the pilot," Mamata said. She said although the Director General of Civil Aviation had ordered a probe, she did not expect much out of it as she had no faith in central agencies.
  • On Tuesday, the Trinamul trade union wing will stage a protest near Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Calcutta.    

Since the Budget session of 2020, Dhankhar’s address to legislators has been “blacked out” which has further strained the ties between Raj Bhavan and the state secretariat.

On Sunday, the Governor had summoned Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee, which was described as a courtesy call, where the issue was discussed, though no commitment was made on whether the live telecast of his address would be allowed.

The governor indicated his displeasure at being “blacked out” ahead of the meeting. "The focus of the scheduled meeting of WB Assembly Speaker with Guv today at 2 PM would be to ensure sanctity of proceedings and dignity of the office of Guv as during earlier such addresses these were compromised with ‘black out’ of ‘live coverage’ of the Guv address," he tweeted on Sunday before his meeting with the Speaker.

Last month, an angry Mamata blocked Dhankhar on micro-blogging site twitter and announced it at a press conference, a measure of the extent to which Raj Bhavan-government ties have broken down.

Till the time of filing this report on Monday morning no decision had been conveyed to Raj Bhavan on the telecast.

According to Trinamul sources, it was unlikely the speech would be telecast as the only Opposition in the Assembly, the BJP legislators, are expected to disrupt the proceedings, drawing reference to the recent civic polls where the Trinamul has been accused of rampant electoral malpractices.

During the first day of the budget session in 2020, Dhankhar’s speech was blacked out from live coverage, while the chief minister’s reply was telecast live. The following year in 2021, cameras were not allowed inside the Assembly premises. “The problem is that the head of the government’s speeches are not being shown, but the chief minister’s is. It creates the perception that the media is not being allowed to remain non-partisan,” said a politician.

Interestingly, while the Dhankhar-Mamata feud has been raging, the Telengana state Assembly, where chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao, is involved in a similar feud with Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, the government has decided to start the budget session without the customary governor’s address.

The budget session of the Telengana Assembly starts from Monday too. The government has argued that since the last day of the previous session held on October 21, the Assembly has not been prorogued, therefore it can continue.  

In Bengal, too, the Assembly session was not prorogued till February 12.

"Now that Telengana has shown the way, the Bengal government too could take recourse to leaving the session sine die and bypass the governor’s address,” said a BJP legislator from North Bengal.

On the other hand, in Kerala where the CPM-led government also has testy ties with the Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, soon after his return from medical treatment abroad, went to Raj Bhavan and spoke with the Governor to allay his reservations regarding the Lokayukta Amendment Ordinance.

Later last month, after Governor Khan refused to sign the address he was to make at the start of the budget session, Vijayan went to Raj Bhavan on February 18, the first day of the session, and convinced him to read out the full text. 

“The path of dialogue and confrontation are both open before Mamata Banerjee. She must decide which route she will take,” said Congress veteran and former leader of Opposition Abdul Mannan.

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