West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee appointed chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay as her chief adviser after allowing him to retire on Monday, ratcheting up a confrontation with the Centre by refusing to release the bureaucrat, and attacking PM Narendra Modi over his transfer.
Banerjee announced that she permitted Bandopadhyay to retire on his last working day after he expressed the desire, and added that he will serve as her chief adviser for three years. She also named the state’s new chief secretary, HK Dwivedi, and home secretary, BP Gopalika.
“A bold officer cannot be victimised like this. The Centre did vindictive politics,” a visibly agitated Banerjee said. “I have never seen such a heartless Prime Minister and home minister,” she added.
Late on Monday, the Centre issued a show-cause notice to Bandopadhyay, indicating that the bitter face-off was not over. An official aware of the matter said on condition of anonymity that “suitable action is being contemplated by the department against the official for defying the DoPT (department of personnel and training) order”.
The controversy began last Friday after Banerjee skipped a scheduled meeting on Cyclone Yaas with Modi. Hours later, the Centre ordered Bandopadhyay, a 1987-batch Indian Administrative Services officer, to report to DoPT by 10am Monday.
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On Saturday, Banerjee refused to release him and urged the Centre to reconsider. On Monday, she wrote a five-page letter to Modi, questioning the legality of the transfer order, asking if it was linked to Friday’s meeting, saying she took permission from Modi before leaving the meeting, and objecting to the presence of Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of Opposition who defeated her in Nandigram. Bandopadhyay, too, didn’t go to Delhi.
Later in the day, Banerjee said the Centre again asked Bandopadhyay to report to North Block on Tuesday, but added that an officer cannot join a new office without the state’s permission.
“I wrote the letter to the Prime Minister but the reply came to him (Bandopadhyay) and not me. The Centre did not even mention why it needs him. You (Centre) have added insult to injury. I see only political vendetta. Why? Is it because you do not like Mamata Banerjee? Is it because you lost the elections? Don’t you think you should respect the people’s mandate?” Banerjee asked, referring to recently held assembly polls in which her party routed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Bandopadhyay was scheduled to retire on Monday but was granted a three-month extension by the Centre on May 24 after the state made the request on May 10. The CM’s statement indicated that the state had decided to not grant the extension.
“This is a blunder by the Central government. They want to bulldoze the state government. This is a political conspiracy. What message does the Modi government want to give to the country?” Banerjee said. “I could have easily asked him (Bandopadhyay) to continue for three months since the Centre gave permission. But he told me that he wants to retire.”
“Do you want to scare the bureaucracy?… I am asking all opposition CMs to stay together…” she said.
the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954, mention: “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.”
But in her letter, Banerjee alleged that the Centre’s order was issued without any prior consultation with the state government or meeting…”
Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh criticised Banerjee “This is an administrative decision. Let people see politics in this if they want to. The ruling party treats IAS and IPS officers as its cadres. Banerjee cannot hide her failure in combating the pandemic…”