Bengal Meeting Consultation Starting Friday More likely to Be Stormy

Kolkata: The first session of the newly constituted West Bengal Assembly beginning on Friday is likely to be eventful amid deeply entrenched fault lines between the Mamata Banerjee government on the one hand and the opposition BJP and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on the other over a range of issues including post-poll violence. The business of the House, which will begin on July 2 with the Governor’s address, will continue till July 8. The state budget for 2021-22 would be placed on July 7.

The stage for a stormy session has been set by the tug of war between the state government and the governor over the latter’s customary inaugural speech, which is essentially a statement prepared by the former. However, just like the previous year, Dhankhar had raised a few issues over the draft speech sent to him by the state government.

Earlier this week, following an exchange of barbs between the Raj Bhavan and the state secretariat, Dhankhar told reporters that he had raised a few questions over the speech with Banerjee, to which she had said that the state cabinet passed the draft. According to sources, the Raj Bhavan wanted inclusion of the incidents of post-poll violence in the state to which the TMC government had an objection.

“The norm is the governor reads out the speech prepared by the state government. The governor cannot make any change as per his whims and fancies,” TMC Chief Whip Nirmal Ghosh said. Last year too, he was opposed to parts of the contents of the speech, but had read it out.

In support of Dhankhar, former Tripura Governor and BJP leader Tathagata Roy said there is no laid down rules that the governor’s speech at the assembly has to be exactly as drafted by the state government. “There is not even any well-established convention (on this). Guv Dharam Vira deviated from it in W Bengal Assembly, and I did so in Tripura. Some MLAs yelled. Who cares?” he tweeted.

The faceoff between Dhankhar and Banerjee worsened on Monday with the chief minister accusing the governor of being “corrupt” as he was allegedly named in the Jain Hawala case drawing a sharp rebuttal from the Raj Bhavan, which accused her of propagating “lies and misinformation”. Apart from placing the state budget for 2021-22 next week, the Trinamool Congress government will also table the ad-hoc committee report to examine the recommendation for creating a Legislative Council for discussion and passage in the forthcoming session.

The West Bengal Legislative Council was set up in 1952 and abolished in 1969 during the United Front government. The BJP legislative party led by the Leader of the opposition Suvendu Adhikari is likely to raise issues such as post-poll violence and vaccine fraud in the state.

The BJP’s demand for a discussion on both issues has not yielded any result. It is also to be seen what seat veteran leader Mukul Roy, who won the March-April assembly polls on a BJP ticket but switched over to the TMC last month, gets in the House as he is yet to resign as saffron party MLA.

Adhikari and Banerjee will, for the first time, face each other on the assembly floor. Once considered a protege of Banerjee, Adhikari switched over to the BJP ahead of the assembly polls and defeated the chief minister from the high-profile Nandigram seat by a slender margin.

The BJP, with 75 MLAs, is the main opposition in the Bengal assembly. The Congress and the Left parties have no representation in the present House. However, their alliance partner ISF has one MLA.

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