Mamata Banerjee on Warpath with Bengal Governor KN Tripathi

A confidential telephonic discussion between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi has resulted in a major political controversy, with the Trinamool Congress supremo alleging that she was “threatened, humiliated and insulted”.

Tripathi had called up the Chief Minister to enquire about the State’s response to reported communal flare-ups in parts of the North 24 Parganas district. The inquiry was based on a submission by the State BJP to the Governor.

‘Like a BJP block President’

At a press conference in the State Secretariat, Banerjee alleged that she was “threatened, humiliated and insulted” by Tripathi, who was behaving like a “like a BJP block President”.

The Chief Minister said that she had, at one point, contemplated stepping down. “The Governor called and said a lot of things. I am feeling insulted and humiliated. He cannot threaten me. At one point, I wished that I could step down,” Banerjee told reporters. “I have come to power on the people’s mandate and not at the mercy of the Governor. The Governor’s post is a Constitutional one and he should be neutral.”

Communal tensions

Banerjee said trouble (communal tension) erupted in North 24-Parganas over objectionable Facebook posts, and that she had instructed the police to take action. “Police firing would have led to the deaths of many people. I am telling the religious leaders of both communities to maintain peace. Do not test my patience,” the Chief Minister said.

Governor reacts

Governor Tripathi, meanwhile, claimed that he was “surprised” at the attitude and “language used” by the Chief Minister. As Head of State, he is duty bound to be the “guardian of all citizens” and “not of any particular party or section or society”.

“The talks between the CM and Governor were confidential in nature and none is expected to disclose it. However, there was nothing in the talks for which the CM may have felt insulted, threatened or humiliated,” a statement issued by the Governor said.

Tripathi further pointed out that he “cannot remain a mute spectator” in the wake of a threat to law and order.

“It is proper for the Governor to bring to the notice of the CM any serious grievance made by any member of the public or any serious event happening in the State. The Governor cannot remain a mute spectator of the affairs in the State,” a press release from the Raj Bhavan said.

State BJP President Dilip Ghosh pointed out that the Governor had the Constitutional right to enquire about the affairs of the State. “He has only pulled up the State government for failing to maintain law and order,” he told a TV channel.

In 2008, the then Left Front government had come down heavily on Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi for his stand on police firing at Nandigram in East Midnapore that led to the death of 14 people.

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