BJP-TMC tussle: CMs of all non-BJP ruled states ought to take common stand against Centre’s authoritarianism
Even fence sitting CMs like Naveen Patnaik, Chandrasekhar Rao and Jaganmohan Reddy must join the opposition voice against the Centre for protection of the federal principles of the Indian Constitution
The confrontation between the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the West Bengal Chief Minister has now reached a critical level posing questions about the very future of our federal system guaranteed by the Indian constitution. The letter by the Centre sent on Monday evening to Alapan Bandyopadhayay was a show cause charging him for violating section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 by not attending the review meeting on Yaas called by the PM on May 28.
Alapan opted to retire from the IAS and as the Chief Secretary of the Bengal government on May 31 – his due day of retirement – without reporting to the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) office in Delhi as directed by the Centre in its letter of Friday evening.
In normal course, the controversy should have ended with Alapan’s retirement on May 31, but the PMO was evidently adamant to teach both Alapan and through him Mamata a lesson for defying the Centre. Alapan was asked to send his reply within three days – by next Thursday – and the focus of bureaucrats throughout the country has shifted on speculating what will be the nature of his reply and what action the Centre will be taking after that.
The development came after the DoPT controversially recalled the top officer to be present at the North Block on Monday morning just a few days after it had approved a three-month extension of his tenure.
But soon after the fiasco over the PM’s review meeting for which the Centre and the Bengal government gave differing versions, the DoPT invoked rule 6(1) of IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954 to recall Bandyopadhayay to Delhi, creating a confrontationist situation in a period when both the CM and the CS are involved in combating the twin challenges from Yaas cyclone and COVID pandemic.
Banerjee had earlier announced that despite the DoPT’s order, the state government would not be releasing Bandyopadhyay. She wrote a five-page letter to the Prime Minister, refusing to comply with the Centre’s order.
“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,” the letter said.
The situation has reached such a stage that the Centre, especially the Prime Minister and Home Minister Amit Shah, seem determined to undermine Mamata after the BJP’s disastrous defeat in the recent state assembly elections. Mamata is getting support in this battle with the Centre from most of the chief ministers of the non-BJP ruled states and the opposition parties but the issue is so vital for the future of the functioning of bureaucracy as also any opposition state government, that there is a immediate need for a formal conference of the state chief ministers of the non-BJP states to discuss the issue and take a common stand against the authoritarianism of the Centre.
It may be difficult in the present situation to hold such a meet physically, so it can be held in a virtual manner and the Centre is communicated formally the joint views of the opposition CMs.
Already, the Kerala Chief Minister Pinnaryi Vijayan has written a letter to the eleven opposition CMs on the need for a joint position on vaccines. Along with this crucial issue for the states, the latest issue also should be discussed on a priority basis and Mamata should be extended the combined support of the opposition CMs to ensure that the Centre backtracks and restores the accepted principles of federalism.
It is high time that even the fence sitting CMs like Naveen Patnaik, Chandrasekhar Rao and Jaganmohan Reddy join the opposition voice against the Centre for the protection of the federal principles of the Indian Constitution.
Views are personal