In an escalation of Bengal’s row with the centre over an attack on the BJP chief’s convoy last week, two top officials of the state have been summoned to Delhi for the second time. Mamata Banerjee’s government has again refused to send them, seeking a video meeting instead citing Covid.
The Union Home Secretary wrote to the Bengal government last evening, asking the state’s Chief Secretary and police chief to attend a meeting at 5.30 pm today. In reply, the state government has suggested a video conference because of the pandemic.
The centre is yet to respond.
Bengal had refused to send the officials when they were summoned last week for a meeting with the Home Secretary over the law and order situation in the state after BJP president JP Nadda’s convoy was attacked at a spot around 60 km from Kolkata.
A day later, the Home Ministry wrote to Bengal asking it to let go of three Indian Police Service (IPS) officers who were to report for central deputation.
The three officers, Bholanath Pandey, Rajeev Mishra and Praveen Kumar Tripathi, were allegedly in charge of security details when Mr Nadda’s convoy was targeted by Trinamool Congress supporters with stones and sticks. The BJP said its leaders were injured in the attack and cars were damaged when rocks were hurled at them by a mob.
The Bengal government wrote back that the officers can’t be spared.
Yesterday, the centre wrote again, asking for the three officers to be transferred.
A furious Mamata Banerjee called it a brazen attempt to control her state by proxy ahead of elections due next year. “We wouldn’t allow this brazen attempt by the centre to control the state machinery by proxy! West Bengal is not going to cow down in front of expansionist and undemocratic forces,” she said in tweets.
She said the government’s order of central deputation for the three serving IPS officers despite the state’s objection was “colourable exercise of power and blatant misuse” of rules.
“This act is nothing but a deliberate attempt to encroach upon State’s jurisdiction and demoralize the serving officers in West Bengal. This move, particularly before the elections is against the basic tenets of the federal structure. It’s unconstitutional and completely unacceptable,” she wrote.
This morning, Ms Banerjee’s Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal came out in her support. “I condemn the Centre’s blatant interference in the Bengal administration. Encroaching on the rights of states by attempting to transfer police officers to Centre just before elections, is an assault on federalism and an attempt to destabilize,” the Delhi Chief Minister posted.