West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been indulging in moral grandstanding over the Chief Secretary controversy. The central government had recalled Alapan Bandyopadhyay after the latter betrayed protocol but the state government has refused to release him from service.
After Bandyopandhyay did not show up to report to the department of personnel, public grievances and pensions (DoPT) in New Delhi, he was served with a show-cause notice.
While Mamata Banerjee is feigning shock and making allegations against the central government that are pretty much indefensible, there are glaring discrepancies between her comments and the constitutional framework.
‘The order is legally untenable and unconstitutional’
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Banerjee wrote, “I must confess that I have been shocked and stunned by the unilateral order dated 28th May, 2021, sent to us by the Government of India, asking us to release Alapan Bandyopadhyay, IAS, Chief Secretary, West Bengal, so that he may join the Government of India on 31st May, 2021, the normal date of his superannuation.”
“The unilateral ‘order’ comes without any prior consultation whatsoever with the government of West Bengal, without any volition/option of the officer, without meeting any of the pre-conditions of the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954, and other applicable laws under reference. The unilateral order/directive is legally untenable, historically unprecedented and wholly unconstitutional,” she added.
In reality, the Chief Secretary falls under the All India Services. Sources within the Government said, “She knows that facts of the matter are against the Chief Secretary and his behaviour was such that it will invite strict disciplinary action as he is an All India Services Officer and it was his duty to ensure that the review meeting takes place as scheduled. All India Officers are not expected to be part of politics.”
‘GoI extended his service by 3 months’
Mamata Banerjee admitted that the Union Government extended Bandyopadhyay’s service period by three months. The central government has cited this as evidence that it is cooperating with the state government.
“The fact that GoI had agreed to extend the service of Chief Secy shows that it is acting in full co-operation and without malice against West Bengal,” sources said.
‘You revised structure of meeting’
Mamata Banerjee also said that inviting Suvendu Adhikari to the meeting was “unacceptable”. However, he is the leader of opposition and an MLA from the affected area. Sources said, “There have been numerous meetings in the past in non-BJP ruled states where representatives of other parties have been present.
‘Chief Secy sent messages, we received no response’
Mamata Banerjee said that the Chief Secretary had sent messages to the officer accompanying the Prime Minister but received no response in turn. However, the Central Government says it is only another excuse to gloss over the fact that she did not want to attended the meeting due to Adhikari’s presence.
Sources said, “Mamata Banerjee chose to boycott the review meeting because the LOP of West Bengal was present. No issue was created by GoI on this, because what mattered was Cyclone relief activities. It was suggested to her that PM will meet her immediately after the review meeting as that was the reason for which he traveled to West Bengal. Sensing that she may have to wait till the review meeting gets over, she chose to prevent other officers too from attending the meeting and in effect cancelled the review meeting scheduled by the Prime Minister.”
‘You permitted us to take our leave’
The Chief Minister claimed that she was given permission to leave by the Prime Minister but sources said that no such permission was given.
The Chief Secy saga
Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced that Alapan Bandyopadhyay had retired from the post of chief secretary. “Since Alapan Bandyopadhyay has retired today on May 31 from his service, he is not going to join in Delhi,” Mamata said, adding that he will continue as the chief advisor to CM for the next three years.
Sources said that the retirement is evidence that the Chief Minister is on the “back foot” and called it a “last bid to save him”.