Jagdeep Dhankhar in Kolkata. (Express)
Hours after state Finance Minister Amit Mitra’s Budget speech was telecast live, Governor Jagdeep Dhankar on Monday wondered if the state government showed its intolerance and censorship towards him by not airing his customary address to the state Legislative Assembly on Friday.
“The State Finance Minister Dr Mitra’s Budget speech was live, while the address of the Governor... was not allowed live coverage and media was also kept away. Leave to judgment of the people of the State!” Dhankhar said in a series of tweets.
“This is of critical consequence for media. Is this an acceptable expression of ideas? Is it not intolerance of the constitutional head? Is it not a kind of censorship? I am sure the media and public would not be just silent spectators,” he tweeted.
Later in the day, the Raj Bhavan issued a statement, saying the blackout of Dhankhar’s speech compromised his right to expression.
“The Budget speech of Finance Minister Dr Amit Mitra was shown live. Governor Dhankhar appreciated this direct telecast of FM’s speech as it helps people know about legislature working. However, this situation makes discrimination apparent. This is crucifixion of democratic values. All over the country there is an increasing transparency of proceedings of the House. It is for the Legislator, Executive and Media to engage in soul searching as regard to this kind of media muzzling and censorship. Governor Dhankhar appealed to everyone concerned in the government and the legislature not to belittle democratic values as narrow partisan considerations,” read the statement.
In a press conference after the Budget, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the live telecast was under the purview of Speaker Biman Banerjee, who declined to comment on the controversy.
However, Dhankhar found an ally in BJP and other Opposition parties. BJP leader Rahul Sinha said, “It is a shame on democracy. The Speaker did not allow the Governor’s speech, who is the head of the state, and aired the live telecast of the finance minister’s speech.”
CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty also criticised the decision and said, “The government was afraid that the Governor may deviate from his Budget speech, which would have made it uneasy. But it was a departure from the convention, which was unwanted.”