Home / Kolkata / Oppn, intelligentsia question Raj Bhawan’s role as Dhankhar compares Bengal to Satyajit Ray’s satire on dictatorship
Nine months of acrimony between West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government reached a new high on Tuesday.
It subjected the Raj Bhawan to scrutiny hours after its incumbent compared the state to the dictatorship depicted by film director Satyajit Ray in his landmark 1980 movie Hirak Rajar Deshe (Land of the Diamond King).
Ray portrayed a king who was obsessed with his diamond mines and subjected farmers, labourers and students to slavery and clinical brainwashing before being ousted by mass revolution. Produced by the then Left Front government, the film is considered a satire on Emergency and the Congress regime in the ’70s.
Dhankhar, a former Janata Dal Lok Sabha MP from Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu and Union minister of state for parliamentary affairs, has been in the eye of the storm for his social media comments ever since becoming a governor for the first time in July last year.
“Time to heed message in Satyajit Ray masterpiece-Hirak Rajar Deshe- one of the best satires against state oppression film industry has ever produced. Hirak Rajar Deshe reminds all -every time an evil king attempts to exploit the farmers, the labourers and the rest of the very people who make the kingdom a kingdom of diamonds, the common man will rise in rebellion. Time for all @MamataOfficial to heed and be accountable,” Dhankhar tweeted on Tuesday morning.
Though the tweet and the trolls that it triggered did not surprise anyone, politicians and the intelligentsia questioned the constitutional limits of Raj Bhawan. Even those who did not entirely disagree with the spirit of Dhankhar’s imagery found in it a reflection of the turf war between TMC and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Prof Amal Kumar Mukhopadhyay, a political commentator and former principal of Presidency College, questioned Dhankhar’s role as a critic.
“I am rather surprised. The governor is the Constitutional head of the state and he should not have made this kind of a comment,” Mukhopadhyay said.
“West Bengal is in a bad shape and the government has totally failed to combat the situation. There are agitations in many places. The government cannot escape its responsibility. We think that it is a kind of Hirak Rajar Deshe but the governor should not have made such a comment,” he added.
The Congress, which has lost substantial ground in West Bengal to the TMC, saw the tussle between the state and Raj Bhawan as a superficial one even as it described it as a “police state.”
“Dhankhar’s statements are politically tilted but all we see is TMC making counter statements. If the TMC seriously feels that the governor is not playing his Constitutional role why hasn’t it met the President of India yet?” Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha and Berhampore MP, asked.
“When the Congress opposed actions by the governors in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra it met the President. If the Bengal governor’s chair is being abused such a meeting is mandatory,” Chowdhury said.
Economist Indraneel Dasgupta of the Indian Statistical Institute minced no words while describing Dhankhar’s statements as “too directly political.”
“A governor should not be doing this. If he is unhappy with any action of the state, he can always ask for a report or seek greater consultation with Raj Bhawan. As a private citizen, I may agree or disagree with another citizen’s political posturing but a governor cannot take a politically partisan stance,” said Dasgupta.
“There is no rule of law in India and Bengal is no different. But what we are witnessing is akin to a representative of the king narrating the story of the queen,” quipped CPI(M) politburo member Md Salim.
The BJP’s state leadership feels that Dhankhar has done no wrong so far and all his actions are aimed at ensuring the welfare of the people.
“Nobody can blame Raj Bhawan of raising issues that are not related to well being of citizens. History shows that even dictatorial forces can come to power through a democratic process. This was noted by the makers of our constitution. Hence, they kept the provisions of Section 355 and 356 (central rule),” Jay Prakash Majumdar, the BJP’s state vice-president, said.
Reacting to the TMC’s allegation that the governor speaks the language of the BJP, Majumdar said, “Has the governor said anything so far that the Congress and the Left parties have not? Those who criticise him should get the substance of his statements.”
Suvashis Maitra, columnist and political observer, pointed out the political nature of Dhankhar’s comments.
“The governor’s statements, right from the time he took over, have been politically sensitive and the relationship between Raj Bhawan and the government is getting worse every day. Opposition parties may find this amusing but it is the constitutional system that is being ridiculed. This is not good for citizens,” Maitra said.
No TMC leader was willing to comment on records on Tuesday’s tweet by Dhankhar.
“The Raj Bhawan, as we said earlier, is an extended office of the BJP,” a senior cabinet minister said.