Bengal chief secy retires, appointed CM Mamata's adviser amid tussle with Centre

Mamata Banerjee
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee monitors the situation of cyclone Yaas, from the control room set up at Nabanna in Kolkata, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. PTI

Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said she was appointing West Bengal's Chief Secretary (CS) Alapan Bandyopadhyay as Chief Advisor for three years effective from Tuesday, after allowing the bureaucrat who was ordered by the central government to report to Delhi, to retire.

The chief minister told newspersons here that the central government had asked Bandopadhyay to report to Delhis North Block on Tuesday, but she added an officer cannot join a new office without permission from the state administration.

"The CS got a letter from the Centre asking him to join North Block by tomorrow. This is not a reply to my letter but to the CS. I have not received any reply from it to the letter which I had sent earlier today," she said.

The chief minister earlier in the day had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to withdraw the Centre's order recalling the Chief Secretary, and asserted her government "cannot release, and is not releasing" the top bureaucrat.

The move opens up various possibilities on possible action by the Central government against the top bureaucrat.

It also lays bare the adversarial relationship between the state and central government which has been simmering for some time and which seems to be deteriorating into what many observers described as a no holds barred battle.

"We are not relieving him (Bandopadhyay). He has superannuated today, but he will act as chief advisor to the CM for the next three years," Banerjee said.

The Centre, in a surprise move, had on May 28 night sought Bandyopadhyay's services and asked the state government to immediately release the top bureaucrat, hours after Banerjee met the Prime Minister at Kalaikunda airbase for 15 minutes instead of a longer scheduled review meeting of the post-cyclone situation in West Bengal.

Bandyopadhyay, a 1987-batch IAS officer of West Bengal cadre, was scheduled to retire on Monday after completion of 60 years of age. However, he was granted a three-month extension as Chief Secretary of West Bengal by the Centre after a request by the state in view of his work in managing the ongoing COVID pandemic.

The chief ministers statement that her government has allowed Bandopadhyay to retire indicates that the state government is not utilising the Centres permission to grant the chief secretary an extension.

Whether Bandyopdhyay's retirement will be accepted by the Centre will however remain to be seen.

Home Secretary HK Dwidevi will be the new chief secretary and BP Gopalika would come in Dwivedis place, Banerjee said.

At the press conference, the chief minister told reporters that Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah were trying to bulldoze the federal structure of the country and creating problems for the state as they were unable to digest the BJPs defeat in the recently concluded assembly elections.

"This (action against Bandopadhyay) is absolutely political vendetta.... Their only target is Mamata Banerjee," she added.

She pointed out that the chief secretary has undergone a personal tragedy recently and has clean track record. He did not ask for the extension, we asked, for the greater cause of the people, she added.

"They are behaving like autocrats, just like Adolf Hitler and (Joseph) Stalin. The Centre cannot force one to join it without the consent of the state government. I will appeal to all state governments of India, all opposition leaders, IAS, IPS officers, NGOs to be together to fight the battle," she said.

Banerjee in her letter sent earlier on Monday to Prime Minister Modi had said the aim of the all-India services has been to "protect and give greater cohesion to the federal foundations" of the Constitution.

According to rule 6(1) of the AIS on deputation of all India service officers, an officer on the rolls of a certain state may be deputed to the Centre or another state or a PSU with the concurrence of the concerned state.

"In case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the central government and the state government or state governments concerned shall give effect to the Decision of the central government," the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954, mention.

According to experts it was always a grey area whether the central government's writ will be legally tenable in such circumstances given that no consent was sought from West Bengal government.

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