Jagdeep Dhankar vs Mamata Banerjee: Will Bengal CM support her bête noire?

The West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, has had a tumultuous relationship with Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar for a long time, and has been demanding his removal from the constitutional post. The CM has written several complaint letters against the Governor. The primary reasons of complaint stated in the letters were the difficulties of governance faced by the state government created by the Governor in the procedures of file movements, clearance of files, calling the chief secretary and other state level senior officials on nominal issues and thereby challenging the authority of the CM on various matters.

Jagdeep Dhankhar took charge as Governor of West Bengal on July 30, 2019, before the polls. And again, it is before July 30, 2022, that he has been nominated as NDA’s vice-presidential candidate. Usually, a governor’s tenure is for a five-year term, but, in the case of Dhankhar, he served the position for only three years. After three years of strained relationship, who won this match Governor or CM?

Seventy-one-years-old Dhankar, hailing from the Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan, cannot be labelled as defeated. If BJP had the intentions of punishing Dhankhar, he wouldn’t have been nominated for the Vice-president post. But the TMC would like to see this development as its victory, although a section of the party thinks that if he had been retained till the next assembly elections, it probably would have been more politically beneficial, as the party would have pushed the narrative of the Governor not following the Constitutional norms and only toeing the BJP’s line.

The Governor’s House of West Bengal, which once housed the Viceroy of the British capital, has upheld the Victorian tradition. According to British culture, similar to the Queen, the Governor remains visible in presence, but silent in authority. But now, with the evolving era of social media, the governors have adapted to a different mode of communication. Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and the Governor of Kerala Arif Mohammad Khan readily give bytes and appear for interviews. Dhankhar is also very active on Twitter and frequently airs his views, putting him in direct confrontation with the West Bengal government.

While BJP’s move to re-institute him would consolidate their political movement in Bengal, the decision has not gone down well with Mamata Banerjee. Sources say she was in the dark and was only informed by Home Minister Amit Shah over a telephone call. TMC believes she should have been consulted by the central government as part of the constitutional norms, a protocol that is necessary to be abided in democracy.

Lal Krishna Advani was known for maintaining this protocol of consulting with the chief ministers during his term as the home minister. On a particular occasion, Advani called Rabri Devi, who was then the CM of Bihar, along with Lalu Yadav, to consult on a particular issue. It was regarding sending Vinod Pandey, the brother of the then Home Secretary, Kamal Pandey, on an official delegation to Bihar. During the conversation, Advani referred Vinod Pandey, who had served as an officer during VP Singh’s administration. Speaking on a lighter note, Advani mentioned Pandey’s special talent of astrology, which could be useful for having a look at Rabri and Lalu Prasad’s horoscope.

Although the proposition of sending Pandey was not taken cordially by Rabri Devi and Lalu Prasad, but at a later stage, it did manage to create a cordial relationship. A similar precedence was also observed during Atal Bihari Vajpayee era, at the time of appointing Viren Shah as the Governor.

A larger question remains, who will be the opposition candidate for the chair of the Vice-president? Dhankhar has already started engaging with the opposition forces consisting of non-BJP leaders to shore up support. The grand old party, Congress, doesn’t seem to be in a position to put up any serious candidate. BJD’s Naveen Patnaik and YSR Congress’ Jagan Mohan Reddy look all set to lend their support in favour of Dhankhar. As for Md. Salim, being a politburo member, and the West Bengal State Secretary of CPIM, he and his party may support Dhankar, given their relations. Lok Sabha Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury may also follow suit.

What would be TMC’s plan of action? As there is no prospect of an opposition candidate, there would be no necessity on TMC’s front to put up any candidate and Mamata wouldn’t create a politically isolated situation for herself and her party.

TMC’s Kunal Ghosh said the final decision would be taken by Mamata herself after July 21, following ‘Shaheed Divas’ rally, after a meeting with all the members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. There seems to be a possibility that Mamata may finally decide to support Dhankhar’s nomination, especially in the wake of the Presidential Poll debacle and not having a probable vice presidential candidate in sight.

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