Adding a Bollywood twist to her latest war of words with the Narendra Modi government, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee borrowed from the iconic film ‘Sholay’ to urge opposition CMs in the country to raise their voice without fear against an “autocratic Centre”.
“Jo darte hain who marte hain (death is certain for those who are afraid),” Banerjee said as she warned the Centre that it would one day “repent” its attempts to bulldoze federalism. “We are not scared by their threats. Bengal has never learnt to lose. We will always walk with our head held high,” she was quoted as saying by Times of India.
Alleging that the Centre was looking to “divert attention” after its failure on various fronts, Banerjee said “there has always been a Lakshman Rekha between the Union government and states”. “…they issued back-to-back letters, without any justification or reason. You could not give justice, and you are doing further injustice by targeting the bureaucracy… They cannot stop us from fighting,” she added.
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Banerjee was referring to the controversy caused by the central deputation order on Alapan Bandyopadhyay, who retired as Bengal chief secretary on Monday and chose not to accept the deputation, and the three-month extension granted to him by the Centre just days ago.
On May 28, Alapan Bandopadhyay was recalled by the Centre on deputation reportedly for his absence in the Cyclone review meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kalaikunda on May 28. Reacting to which, Banerjee wrote a letter to the prime minister on Monday, saying she was “shocked and stunned” by the “unilateral order” asking Bandyopadhyay to report to the Centre, and made it clear that the state government “is not releasing” him.
“The government of Bengal cannot release, and is not releasing, its Chief Secretary at this critical hour, on the basis of our understanding that the earlier order of extension, issued after lawful consultation in accordance with applicable laws, remains operational and valid,” Banerjee wrote. The Trinamool Congress on Monday said that the Centre’s order to recall Bandopadhyay will affect the fight against the raging COVID-19 pandemic and relief work after the devastation wreaked by cyclone Yaas in the state.
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Alapan was due to retire on May 31, 2021 but he was given a three-month extension on request of the West Bengal government amid surge in COVID-19 cases and considering his vast experience in managing relief operations during natural calamity. However, amid a recall order, Alapan decided to discontinue his extension and expressed his desire to retire. Following his decision, she was made Mamata Banerjee’s Chief Adviser on Monday.
On May 10, 2021, West Bengal government asked for Alapan’s extension from the Centre and on May 24 they granted his extension. Surprisingly, on May 28, he was recalled on central deputation reportedly after he gave a miss to PM Modi’s review meeting at Kalaikunda in West Midnapore on May 28. Mamata Banerjee sought explanation from the Centre to clarify the reason behind Alapan’s recall letter which was issued just four days after giving him the extension for three months by the Centre itself.
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