Spoke to Mamata on pro-VC appointment, want issue to be resolved: Bengal governor

Kolkata, Jun 3 (PTI) West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who appeared headed for fresh acrimony with the state government after a controversy erupted over the appointment of two persons as the pro-VC of Burdwan University, on Wednesday said he had a telephonic conversation with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and that he wants to 'put a lid on the issue'.

Dhankhar, who had several face-offs with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government since assuming office in July 2019, told reporters that he wants to stop the issue from escalating as the state is going through a crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan.

'I had a telephonic conversation with Mamata Banerjee in the morning. The state is going through a crisis and I want this (pro-VC issue) to be resolved. I want to put a lid on the controversy,' he said.

'It is my obligation as the constitutional head of the state to rise to the occasion and have a farsighted approach and not to deviate focus from our objectives to work for the interest of the state.... I consider the dialogue with the chief minister as significant and positive. Her response was affirmative and indicative of a hopeful scenario,' Dhankhar said.

Referring to the controversy over the appointment of two persons for the pro-VC's post by him as the chancellor of the state universities, the governor said, 'I am confident that the chief minister will find a way out -- a mechanism so that such issues do not arise in the future.' He said, 'I wish to close the unfortunate chapter in the interest of the state, in the interest of education.... In future, if the occasion arises, the situation warrants, I will speak to the honourable chief minister. She saw my perspective, I have urged her that she should take a call in this matter at her level. I am confident that she will use her judgement and discretion to find a way out.' Quizzed repeatedly over the acrimonious exchanges between Higher Education Minister Partha Chatterjee and him since he issued the pro-VC's appointment letter on Monday, Dhankhar said he does not want to be saddled with the 'baggage of yesterday as it will be detrimental to the system'.

'I do not want to enter into any argument. Honourable chief minister and I are on the same page,' he said.

Asked about Chatterjee's comments that he was a 'BJP man' and had been intimidating the vice chancellors, Dhankhar said, 'I will not comment on any reflection. If I have a friend in the ministry of Mamata Banerjee, he is Partha Chatterjee. We keep talking to each other every alternate day.' 'All such issues become very sensitive and stressful for the education system. We have to work out a smooth and seamless mechanism in the interest of students,' he added.

The state government and the governor crossed swords on Tuesday after Dhankhar, as the chancellor of the state universities, appointed Goutam Chandra as pro-vice-chancellor of Burdwan University, an order that was shot down by Chatterjee, who slammed the governor for acting in an 'undemocratic and unconstitutional way'.

The minister had asserted that the chancellor could not appoint anyone this way and that the higher education department had appointed Ashis Panigrahi to the pro VC's post.

The governor had, on Tuesday, also sent letters to the VCs of the state universities asking them to inform him of any important decision which merits direct communication and not through any other department.

Referring to the crisis being faced by West Bengal due to COVID-19 and Cyclone Amphan, Dhankhar said, 'As the governor of the state, it is my constitutional duty to be concerned about the welfare of people and lend strength to the state government at all times.... I need to be shoulder-to-shoulder with the government.' 'The state at the moment is deeply stressed as never before on account of a three-fold challenge -- COVID-19, the fallout of Amphan and issues related to migrant workers,' he said.

Stating that this is the time for Centre-state partnership in dealing with the crisis being faced by West Bengal, the governor said the constitutional scheme provides for cooperative federalism and all sides need to practise it.

'Such an approach will be greatly helpful in meeting the urgent needs of the people and mitigating their woes,' he said, adding that it is a welcome sign that the cooperation is unfolding in a positive manner and more so following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the state immediately after Cyclone Amphan. PTI SUS PNT KK RC