Kolkata/New Delhi: The Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal and the Centre were on warpath again on Friday after the Union Home Ministry summoned two top state officials to the national capital over the mob attack on BJP chief J P Nadda's convoy and the state refused to comply.
In the latest flashpoint in the already strained ties between New Delhi and Kolkata, the home ministry summoned chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay and DGP Virendra likely for an explanation on the attack on December 14 but a defiant state government said they will not go.
Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, locked in a seemingly interminable feud with the Mamata Banerjee government, meanwhile, accused the state administration of pandering to those in power and said he has sent a report to the Centre about the "extremely disturbing developments".
A fresh battle of attrition began Friday morning when an MHA communique demanded that the two top officials of the state appear before Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on December 14 to explain as to how the breach in Nadda's security happened.
Around the time the Centre's summons landed on the desk of the state's chief secretary, Dhankhar was addressing a press conference in Raj Bhawan where he said the developments that took place on Thursday did not augur well for democracy.
"Finding the situation alarming, as my constitutional duty, I have sent a report to the central government about the extremely disturbing developments that do not augur well for democratic values, that are antithetical to rule of law, that sound death knell of constitutional parameters," he told a press conference at Raj Bhawan.
He said that he does not wish to share the contents of the report as part of propriety.
The TMC reacted sharply to the governor's remarks, calling him a "conduit pipe" of the BJP.
"The governor has made a habit of speaking to the press daily. We do not want to react to his statements, we can only say he is a conduit pipe of Bharatiya Janata Party," TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee told reporters.
The TMC MP's criticism of the governor was a harbinger of tougher things that the Mamata Banerjee government had planned to take the Modi government head on before the April- May assembly elections.
Minutes later, Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay wrote to Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, saying he has been directed to request to "dispense with the presence of the state officials" at the meeting convened on December 14, an obvious indication that he was just obeying the state government's order.
"Kindly refer to the letter whereby the Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police, Government of West Bengal have been requested to attend a meeting on December 14, 2020, at 12.15 PM in your chamber to discuss the law and order situation in the State of West Bengal including the incidents regarding certain Z-category protectees," Bandopadhyay wrote in his letter.
"While further reports are being obtained and compiled, in the circumstances, I am directed to request you to kindly dispense with the presence of the State officials in the meeting, considering that the State Government is already addressing this issue with utmost seriousness," he said in his two-page letter.
Addressing the press conference, Dhankhar excoriated Mamata Banerjee, asserting "The governor will vindicate his oath, come what may."
He said it is shameful that such an incident occurred on International Human Rights Day.
"Accountability will be enforced," he said, cautioning Banerjee not to "play with fire".
Several vehicles in Nadda's cavalcade were damaged and BJP leaders and workers injured by stone-throwing protesters carrying TMC flags at Sirakol when he was travelling to Diamond Harbour to address a public meeting.
Noting that calling an Indian citizen an outsider is an attack on the Constitution, he said, "This is too dangerous to be acceptable by anyone who believes in Indian Constitution and rule of law."
The TMC supremo has on several occasions said that the BJP is bringing outsiders into the state for the upcoming assembly elections.
Claiming that the BJP is bringing musclemen from outside and sending them to the villages in West Bengal, she had told a farmers' protest rally here on Thursday to challenge them and file FIRs against such entrants.
"If you move away from the path of the Constitution, then my responsibility begins," the governor said.
"The law and order situation in the state has been worsening with each passing day. Despite cautioning the chief minister and the administration nothing has happened," he said.
Dhankhar said the non-responsive stance of the chief minister towards the Raj Bhawan is an indication that governance in the state is not in accordance with the Constitution.
Claiming that distancing of governance from the rule of law cannot be accepted in democracy, he said, "unconstitutional parameters are at an alarming level making it extremely difficult for me to conclude that governance in the state is in accordance with the Constitution."
Describing the attack on J P Nadda's convoy on Thursday as most "unfortunate and a slur on our democractic fabric," he said "The violators of law in Bengal have immunity and protection of political police and administration."
"Present political scenario in West Bengal is that any opposition is ruthlessly suppressed...human rights were in flames yesterday on World Human Rights Day," Dhankhar said.
Describing Banerjee's comments on the incident of attack on Nadda's convoy as "most unfortunate", he said "I take a very serious note of the statement that emanated from Hon'ble the Chief Minister, how can a responsible chief minister believing in rule of law, Constitution, subscribing to the rich Bengali culture talk the way she did."
Dhankhar said the chief minister should apologise for her statement on the attack and her observations on the president of the ruling party at the Centre.
Banerjee had on Thursday termed the incident of attack on the BJP president's convoy as a drama to divert attention from lack of attendance at his rally, while questioning whether it was "planned" for the purpose of propaganda.
She had mockingly uttered distorted versions of the BJP chief's surname.
Dhankhar said the attack happened despite his alerting the two top state officials about the possibility of "collapse" of law and order during Nadda's public meeting.
When asked about Dhankhar's claim that he had informed the state administration of possible law and order problem well in advance on Thursday morning, TMC lawmaker Kalyan Banerjee said the governor's source of information must have been the BJP "who were to create the situation".
In his letter to the union home secretary, Bandopadhyay insisted the state government had indeed made elaborate arrangements for security at Nadda's event.
He said the West Bengal police had provided a bulletproof car and pilot and escort vehicles to Nadda, who was also guarded by CRPF personnel.