Amidst the tug of war between the Centre and West Bengal government over the requisitioning of Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay to New Delhi, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced that Bandyopadhyay had been made Chief Adviser to the Chief Minister after he declined the three-month extension granted to him, and retired from service.
Banerjee also announced that Home Secretary H K Dwivedi would be the new chief secretary of West Bengal, and B P Gopalika would be the new home secretary.
The Centre on Monday sent another letter to Bandyopadhyay, asking him to report to North Block on Tuesday. The second letter came hours after Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to assert that her government would not release Bandyopadhyay for central deputation, as required by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).
The DoPT had written to the West Bengal government on Friday, saying the “Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the placement of…(Bandyopadhyay’s) services with the Government of India”, and that the government should “relieve the officer with immediate effect and direct him to report to the DoPT…by 10 am on May 31”.
At a news conference in Nabanna, the state secretariat, on Monday, Banerjee recounted the sequence of events leading up to the flashpoint. “In our letter on May 12, the purpose of extension of his (Bandyopadhyay’s) service for the state government was for management of the Covid-19 and post-cyclone Yaas situation. The Centre’s letter (of May 28) did not mention the reason (for the requisition of Bandyopadhyay). Today, I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to withdraw the order and reconsider the decision.
“But today, the Centre has sent another letter to Alapan Bandyopadhyay, asking him to report to North Block tomorrow. However, Alapan Bandyopadhyay retired, as I did not allow him to leave our secretariat (Nabanna). After his superannuation, Home Secretary H K Dwivedi has become the new chief secretary and IAS B P Gopalika has become the new home secretary,” she said.
Describing Bandyopadhyay as a “bright officer”, the chief minister said, “Today is his retirement day. It is his desire. He can take a decision. I think has the guts and he has the boldness. I allowed him to be the Chief Adviser to Chief Minister. He will start his work from tomorrow. I have already ordered (that the post be created).”
Bandyopadhyay, Banerjee said, would draw a salary of `2.5 lakh per month plus benefits, and his tenure has been fixed for three years. The drama unfolded after Banerjee, accompanied by Bandyopadhyay, skipped a review meeting on Cyclone Yaas called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 28. Hours later, the Centre recalled Bandyopadhyay to New Delhi.
The order, which gave no reasons, came only days after the Centre on May 24, approved a proposal by the state to extend Bandyopadhyay’s tenure by three months until August 31. Before the extension was granted, Bandyopadhyay was scheduled to retire on May 31.
Banerjee slammed Prime Minister Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for their alleged vendetta politics and “cruelty”. She called the Centre’s moves “illegal and unconstitutional”, and mocked Modi as “Mr Mann Ki Baat Prime Minister”. “This is a great blunder of the central government. They want to bulldoze the state government totally. They want to play political vendetta …,” Banerjee said.