Dhankhar, a 68-year old senior Supreme Court advocate, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, and former Union minister has been a Member of Parliament (MP) and legislator from Rajasthan. He is an ex-congressman and was associated with Janata Dal before joining BJP. He succeeded the 84-year old former Speaker of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, Keshari Nath Tripathi.
Tripathi was appointed governor in July 2014, and he also had several run-ins with Banerjee, her government and her party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) during his tenure. Obviously, the TMC made several public demands for Tripathi’s recall, on grounds that he has proximity with RSS and BJP.
When Dhankhar was appointed on Jul 30, 2019, some in Bengal government felt that his appointment will ease the tension and the government will act scot-free, without a tussle with the governor. However, just after three months, the situation has changed and the relation between two have become worse than in Tripathi’s time.
In his five-month tenure as Governor, Dhankar has repeatedly questioned the law and order situation in the state. His continuous tirade against the state government through twitter has only irked Mamata Banerjee and her impudent passel of ministers and bureaucrats.
Dhankhar has been at loggerheads with the state government on a number of issues.
On Sep 19, 2019, Union minister Babul Supriyo was on Thursday shown black flags and heckled by a section of students at Jadavpur University, who also stopped him from leaving the campus. Prompted by the grave nature of the incident West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who is also Chancellor of the university, rushed to JU along with a large police force. His personal and timely intervention rescued central minister Babul Supriyo from the agitating students. However, the state education minister charged that the governor played partisan politics by visiting the university without taking the state government in confidence. This incident was the turning point in the bitter relationship between the government and the governor.
On Sep 24, 2019, during his official visit to Siliguri just five days after his Jadavpur University visit fiasco Dhankar has announced to hold meetings with the elected representatives and state government functionaries in Siliguri. However, none of the government functionaries turned up in the meeting.
Upset by such “lukewarm stand’’ Dhankar reacted saying it was a “cause of worry’’ as it “does not fit with the culture of the state’’.
On Oct 15, 2019, Governor was guest in Durga Puja immersion carnival was being held by the state government. However, he alleged that he had been intentionally blacked out by the media because of his seating arrangement. He infuriated and could not control his outburst “I am the constitutional head, I need respect. The respect is not for Jagdeep Dhankar”.
Jagdeep Dhankhar on Sunday, Nov 3, 2019, expressed dismay that he has not been invited to the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival to be held from November 8 to 15.
In fact So far (since his taking over) he has not been invited to a single state function.
On November 13, Dhankhar had sought a chopper to travel to Shantipur in Nadia district, but the state government had turned down the request citing relief work in the aftermath of cyclone Bulbul.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar was on Thursday Nov, 14, 2018, refused permission for a chopper to travel to Farakka in Murshidabad district, making it the second such denial by the state government in one week. Earlier this week, the governor had requested for a helicopter to travel to Shantipur in Nadia district to attend a festival, which was also turned down by the West Bengal government.
On Nov, 19, 2019, for the third time in a week, the West Bengal government has turned down Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar”s request for a helicopter for district visits. The Governor will now travel to Domkal in Murshidabad on Wednesday by road to inaugurate a college building
A miffed Dhankhar had said then that a communication from the Governor should be given priority.
Responding to Dhankhar, minister of state for health Chandrima Bhattacharya had described his demand as “absurd”, saying he should first clarify why he needed a chopper as “one cannot tolerate misuse of public money”.
On the Constitution Day on Nov 27, 2019, none from the government attended the programme organised at Raj Bhavan while the Governor was present at the programme held in the Assembly.
Relations between West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have plummeted after the TMC government ordered that universities will no longer require the governor’s consent, who is also the chancellor, to organize a senate meeting. TMC legislators protested Tuesday Dec 10, 2019, against Dhankhar for delaying important bills and called him an “agent of the BJP”.
Dhankhar, on Dec 16, 2019, criticized Banerjee for conducting a rally against Citizenship Amendment Act in the city and asked her to desist from “unconstitutional and inflammatory actions”.
The matter degenerated further when, on December 24, 2019, Dhankhar was prevented from presiding over the convocation at Jadavpur University by staff members affiliated to the Trinamool Congress and he was finally forced to leave.
On Monday, Jan 13, 2020, a meeting called by Dhankhar to discuss the situation in different state universities with Vice-Chancellors and the higher education secretary could not be held at the Raj Bhavan as neither the VCs nor officials turned up. Rather the vice-chancellors of 20 universities in the state formed an association under the banner of ‘Upacharya Parishad’ on Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020, for ‘Betterment of Education’. Jadavpur University (JU) VC Suranjan Das was appointed president of ‘Upacharya Parishad’ on Jan 15, 2020.
Interestingly, some VCs were seen sitting beside state education minister Partha Chatterjee in an anti-NRC demonstration.
Reacting to the development, the Governor told the media: “They (VCs) are under fear. They are in captivity. They told me privately that they are under pressure and fear.”
State education minister Partha Chatterjee rubbished the allegations and said there is no pressure on the VCs in the state.
One of the VCs said there were legal difficulties in attending the meeting following the passage of the West Bengal Universities and College (Administration and Regulation) Act, 2017, in December last year. Under the amended rule, vice-chancellors cannot to attend a meeting without the consent of the state higher education department.
On Jan 15, 2020, Education minister Parth Chatterjee said that Sudesh Dhankar accompanies her husband in meetings and media persons why questions were not asked on this. Reacting to this statement, Dhankar said that minister was not only incorrect in his statement but also malicious toward the first lady. Dhankar not only demanded “public apology” from Chatterjee but also sought Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s attention to this matter.
However, notwithstanding facing a passel of hostile and impudent state ministers, who are on rampage with most vituperative language for him, Jagdeep Dhankar has decided that he will not be just a “copy-book” governor. “I had a long political career. I have seen a lot of these things. They cannot influence the way I act by doing any of these things. I do whatever I do after due thinking and I act consciously. I am intervening and interfering where I feel I can as the Constitutional head of the state” said Dhankhar.
The Trinamool Congress top brass has already accused Dhankar over his “partisan approach”, making “politically biased statements” and “overstepping the Constitutional jurisdiction” by indulging in “political gimmicks”.
The governor is also proactively attacking Mamata Banerjee. At the same time, whatever he is doing is still within the constitutional boundaries. They are both pointing fingers at each other. In near future the Mamata-Dhankhar tussle going to become a recipe for disaster.