Bengal’s top officer Alapan Bandyopadhyay retired as Chief Secretary today instead of reporting to the Centre, in a dramatic escalation of Mamata Banerjee’s feud with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr Bandyopadhyay is now Chief Adviser to the Bengal government for three years but that may not protect him from the Centre’s displeasure.
He will face a charge-sheet and action for defying orders, said central government sources.
HK Dwivedi has taken over as the new Bengal Chief Secretary.
Mamata Banerjee had written to PM Modi that she would not allow Mr Bandyopadhyay’s transfer to Delhi, as ordered by the Centre. The Centre, she said, responded by insisting that he has to report to Delhi.
“This is vendetta. I have never seen such cruel behavior. Just because they want to attack the Chief Minister, they attack the Chief Secretary. You have added insult to injury. There is no consultation. Why? Because you lost? Because you don’t like Mamata Banerjee. The Centre may not be aware that he has superannuated and his services are not available for the Centre. I have decided we need his service for the Covid pandemic. For Covid and for Cyclone Yaas, he must continue his service to the poor, the state, the country, the affected people…” the Chief Minister said.
She accused PM Modi of treating bureaucrats like bonded labourers. “If a bureaucrat is insulted after he has dedicated his life to his work, what message is the government and PM sending out? There are many Bengali cadre officers at the Centre. Can I recall them without consultation, Mr Prime Minister? Mr Busy Prime Minister? Mr Mann-ki-baat Prime Minister?”
A combative Chief Minister used labels like “Adolf Hitler and Stalin” and declared: “You want to scare the bureaucracy. We are not scared. I am not scared of you. Those who are afraid crumble. We fight and we win.”
Mr Bandyopadhyay, who had recently been granted a three-month extension in Bengal, was asked to report to the Centre in an order issued hours after Mamata Banerjee skipped a Cyclone Yaas review meeting with PM Modi on Friday.
She met with the Prime Minister briefly after his helicopter landed at the Kalaikunda air base in Bengal and left for another meeting. Top central government sources called her “petulant” and said “never before in the history of the Indian Republic has a Chief Minister of a state behaved in such an ugly, disrespectful and arrogant manner” with a Prime Minister.
In a five-page letter refusing to comply, Ms Banerjee wrote to PM Modi: “The government of Bengal cannot release, and is not releasing, its Chief Secretary at this critical hour, on the basis of our understanding that the earlier order of extension, issued after lawful consultation in accordance with applicable laws, remains operational and valid.”
This is the latest in Mamata Banerjee’s bitter and unabated run-ins with the ruling BJP at the Centre after she won a landslide victory in the Bengal election, fighting off a tough challenge from the BJP.