My biggest task is to ensure free and fair assembly polls : Dhankhar

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(Adding quotes and information) Kolkata, Dec 16 (PTI) West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar Wednesday asserted that he 'is neither a post office nor a rubber stamp' and his biggest task will be to ensure free and fair Assembly elections in the state.

He said those who oppose free and fair elections will be sternly dealt with.

Dhankhar, who has been at loggerheads with the TMC government ever since he assumed charge in July 2019, said he has full information about the 2018 panchayat polls in the state and it will not be repeated.

The 2018 panchayat poll in the state was marked by violence which claimed at least 12 lives despite the deployment of elaborate security and many candidates were not allowed to file their nominations allegedly by the ruling TMC.

The three-tier panchayat polls were held in the state after a protracted legal battle in Kolkata High Court and Supreme Court involving the state election commission, the ruling TMC and opposition parties.

'As governor my biggest task is to ensure that the 2021 polls are conducted in a free and fair manner. Central forces will come on time. I am not a party to politics or stake holder in politics,' he told newspersons at Sarisa in South 24 Parganas.

The area falls in Diamond Harbour parliamentary constituency.

'I am neither a post office nor a rubber stamp. Since I assumed office my only objective was to protect the Constitution and establish the rule of law.

'My objective remains that the people of Bengal cast their votes without fear. Those who will oppose this (free and fair polls) will be sternly dealt with,' he said.

Dhankhar said that there has been integration of administration with politics in West Bengal. 'The system has to be neutralised. It will be neutralised,' he asserted.

Taking exception to the absence of any senior district official during his tour to district, he said the governor is a post which should be shown due respect as per protocol. 'I am not speaking as Jagdeep Dhankhar but as governor.' 'I can assure you such things will not be allowed to continue. I am taking note of every such violation of service protocol,' he added.

Criticising the state government, Dhankhar said 'What is happening here is not happening anywhere else in the country. The state chief secretary and director general of police had met me on December 10 but failed to give an update of the attack on J P Nadda's convoy. They had only attended the meeting physically'.

He continued, 'Obligation of every public servant is to remain politically neutral. But there is deep rooted political commitment to subserve the ruling dispensation and thinking nothing will happen. You can mark my words such people are in for deep surprise. Any transgression will not be allowed'.

Referring to the December 10 alleged attack on Nadda's convoy at Diamond Harbour, Dhankhar said details emanating after it 'are very very alarming,' and if such incidents continue it will be akin to anarchy and lawlessness.

Taking a dig at the TMC leaders, the governor without taking names said 'None can consider himself to be the jagirdar (King's officials who were granted land during the Delhi Sultanate prior to the Mughals) of a particular area.

Also none can be the jagirdar of a whole state and every citizen has the right of movement.' He said, 'The CM is bound by the rule of law. She must respect the law, she must respect the Constitution'.

The governor stated that 20 retired police officers are holding positions in the state at the behest of the Mamata Banerjee administration.

'These officers must not carry the impression that since they are retired and are on contract they are not accountable, they are in for surprise. They must discharge their duties neutrally,' he added. PTI SUS KK KK KK