New Delhi/Kolkata, May 29 (PTI) The Centre’s move to recall West Bengal chief secretary drew a stinging criticism from the TMC and the Congress which dubbed it as political vendetta and an 'unpardonable attack' on federalism, while Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee demanded that the decision be revoked immediately.
'Because you cannot digest BJP's defeat (in West Bengal), you have started creating problems for us from day one. What is the fault of the chief secretary?” Banerjee, who has had frequent run-ins with the Modi Government and is one of its most vocal critics, said at a virtual press conference on Saturday.
The Congress and Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress questioned the Modi government’s decision to shift chief secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, who was given an extension by the Centre just days ago, at a time when the state was reeling from the impact of COVID-19 and cyclone, but BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari faulted the officer’s action of not attending a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra on Cyclone Yaas.
'I have no word to criticise the way the West Bengal chief minister and the chief secretary insulted the prime minister,' Adhikari, who is the Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal assembly, said at a virtual press conference.
'What happened is unprecedented in the country and the chief secretary may have been compelled to do so,' he said.
Banerjee, along with the chief secretary, did not attend the meeting but entered the room and left after submitting a report to him on the damage caused by the cyclone. A few hours after the meeting, the Centre ordered his transfer to Delhi.
'Recalling the chief secretary amid the COVID crisis goes on to show that the Centre was indulging in political vendetta,' the Trinamool Congress supremo alleged.
The CM said that she had hoped to solve this 'problem' by talking it out with the Centre but she was informed that the central government has filed caveats in the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and Calcutta High Court on the transfer of Bandyopadhyay.
She said that her government might explore legal options on the matter.
'I appeal to you to end this political vendetta, withdraw this letter (calling back CS); allow him to work for Covid-infected people, Cyclone-affected people. We are working like a team and we want to continue that,' she said.
Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the 'abrupt, malicious and unilateral' recall of the West Bengal's chief secretary by the Modi Government has shocked the conscience of the entire nation.
'This is a lethal blow to the Constitution of India, as also Federalism. If the Union Government is permitted to recall the All India Service Officers i.e. IAS and IPS from the states for partisan political considerations and at its whims and fancies, the entire architecture of the rule of law and the Constitution will crumble,' Surjewala said in a statement.
'This would lead to complete and total anarchy in the country,' he alleged.
'The Congress calls upon every jurist, constitutional expert, elected representative and every countryman to rise in unison to condemn this unpardonable attack on India's constitutional ethos and the federal structure,' he said and alleged that it was the death knell for democracy.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh too took a swipe at the prime minister and the Union home minister, saying 'this move in the middle of a pandemic and the aftermath of a devastating cyclone, shows how they are still licking their Bengal wounds post-elections'.
The chief secretary attended duty Saturday and accompanied the chief minister at an aerial survey of the cyclone-ravaged Purba Medinipur.
Bandyopadhyay took over as the chief secretary of West Bengal after Rajiva Sinha retired in September last year. A 1987-batch IAS officer of the West Bengal cadre, he was scheduled to retire on May 31 after completion of 60 years of age. However, he was granted a three-month extension following a nod from the Centre.
Banerjee had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to grant Bandyopadhyay an extension for at least six months in view of his experience of handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier in December, the Centre had directed the West Bengal government to immediately relieve three IPS officers so that they could join their new assignments at the Centre.
The three were responsible for the security of BJP President J P Nadda during his visit to the state for building up momentum for electioneering when his convoy was attacked at Diamond Harbour.
However, according to the officials, these three were never released by the state government.
The arrest of two West Bengal ministers and a TMC MLA by the CBI in the Narada sting case was the latest flashpoint between the Centre and Banerjee. PTI SCH/SKC/AMR RT