Bengal govt to stand by Alapan Bandyopadhyay in tussle with Centre: Mamata

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(Eds: Adds new inputs) Kolkata, Jun 2 (PTI) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday asserted that her administration will stand by Alapan Bandyopadhyay in the tussle with the Centre which has seen the former chief secretary of the state being recalled to Delhi and later served a notice by the Union Home Ministry for allegedly violating the Disaster Management Act, by not attending a meeting called by the prime minister.

The chief minister also claimed the controversy was now a 'closed chapter', though she did not explain how, since the officer who chose to retire on Monday faces possible criminal action by the Centre for his alleged violation of the stringent DMA.

'Alapan Bandyopadhyay chapter is over now. The West Bengal government will give full support to Alapan Bandyopadhyay in whatever is going on with him,' Banerjee told reporters when asked about her government's stance on the controversy.

The state administration is now drafting replies to the Centre's notice to Bandyopadhyay and the West Bengal government, a top official said.

'We are exploring all legal options and the replies will be sent very soon,' he said.

Bandyopadhyay, a 1987-batch IAS officer of West Bengal cadre, was set to retire on May 31, but the state had last month sought and received permission to extend his tenure as chief secretary by three months as he was heading West Bengal's efforts to combat a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was, however, sent a directive to report to North Bloc in Delhi by the Centre, shortly after a row broke out over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's post-cyclone review meeting with Banerjee on May 28.

The chief minister chose to meet the Prime Minister for just 15 minutes instead of a longer planned review meeting, upset that her former aide, BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari too had been called for the meeting at Kalaikunda airbase to review the damage wrought by cyclone 'Yaas'.

The bureaucrat, instead of reporting to Delhi, chose to retire amid the Centre-state tussle. He was subsequently appointed as the CM's chief adviser.

The Union Home Ministry then served a show-cause notice on Bandyopadhyay under a stringent provision of the Disaster Management Act that entails imprisonment up to two years.

A home ministry official said that hours before the CM announced his retirement on May 31, Bandyopadhyay was served the notice for refusing to comply with lawful direction of the Centre in violation of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Bandyopadhyay has started working as chief adviser to the state and was present at Wednesday's meeting of the state Irrigation department presided over by Banerjee.

Trinamool Congress youth wing president Abhishek Banerjee on Wednesday alleged that the BJP-led central government's move against Bandyopadhyay showed the vindictive attitude of the saffron party towards West Bengal.

If action is taken against the former chief secretary under the Disaster Management Act, the same law should be applied against the prime minister for holding big election rallies 'when Covid-19 cases were rising' in the state, he claimed. PTI SCH JRC NN NN

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