Why Are WB CM & Guv Writing Letters to Each Other Amid a Pandemic?

While the relations between the two were never great, this letter war seems to be the latest flashpoint.

Updated11 May 2020, 01:04 PM IST
4 min read

Video Editor: Varun Sharma, Purnendu Pritam

During the nationwide lockdown, not many of us are getting too many letters, except of course – the Honourables – chief minister and governor of West Bengal.

The battle of letters between Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been the top headline on local news for a while now. Over the past few weeks, the two top offices in the state have been at each other’s throats, using letters, Twitter and even SMSes to lash out at each other.

Initially, this catfight gave us all some much-needed entertainment.

But abhi thoda zyada ho gaya hai.

While relations between Dhankhar and Mamata Banerjee have never been great, this war of letters seems to be the latest flashpoint in their troubled relationship.

The letter wars – as we are calling them now – started around 20 April, when the governor, after repeated attacks on the CM on social media regarding her COVID-19 response, sent a two-page letter to her.

The letter asked the Banerjee to “unlock the logjam” between Raj Bhavan and the state secretariat, Nabanna, and urged her government to return to a “functional mode” to combat the COVID-19 crisis.

Flagging issues regarding testing kits and the PDS system, the governor asked the CM to “spare time” to “engage” with him on “critical issues”.

In response, the chief minister, sent him a curt three-line reply, reminding us all of that friend who replies to a 100-word text message with a “K”.

Mamata Banerjee wrote:

“I would like to thank you for your letter dated April 20. You would, no doubt appreciate that the entire state government machinery is now engaged to fight against COVID-19 pandemic. This is for your kind information.”

This seems to have irked the governor, who, jilted by the public cold shoulder to his letter, sent some “nasty” messages to Mamata.

These messages were made public by Banerjee in her next letter – a seven-page missive that certainly made up for the brevity of the last one.

Just to put that in context, there has been no document released by the Bengal government on COVID-19 data that has been that long.

In the seven-page saga, Banerjee was at her combative best, dishing out lines like:

“You appear to have forgotten that I am an elected Chief Minister of a proud Indian state. You also seem to have forgotten that you are a nominated governor.”

After some heavy-duty quoting of Ambedkar and the Sarkaria Commission, the chief minister signed off by saying that it was the governor, and not her, who had “flagrantly transgressed constitutional dharma”.

Not very long after the letter had reached Raj Bhavan, the governor put out a tweet on what his response would be. BUT he said ye toh bas draft hai!

Because the public, which had obviously not had enough of all his letters, now must also go through his drafts!

Within three hours he responded with a five-paged letter in which he called the state’s response to his previous letter “outrageous”. He wrote:

“Since July 30, 2019, I have done my utmost in most persuasive manner to solicit to adherence to Constitutional prescriptions and to secure that Government of the day is carried in accordance with the Constitution. Towards this, I have sent you repeated communications. You will gather from all this that there has been an outrageous, flagrant disrespect of Constitutional prescriptions and Rules of Business at your end and that of your officials. So far no communication whatsoever has come to be shared with me in terms of Rule 27 aforestated. This pathetic approach also did not derail me from my persuasive mode to work in togetherness with you (sic).”

After reading ten pages of what only seemed like a high-school ego battle, journalists like us thought, bas ab ho gaya!

But no, then came another letter by Banerjee. This time thirteen pages long!

Here she said that the governor’s words against her and her ministers were “vituperative, intemperate, abusive and insulting”.

Too much Inglissss, Didi! It almost seems like a Shashi Tharoor letter!

She also said that she felt more sad than angry. And ended by saying ki shuru aapne kiya tha, maine nahi (you started it, not I).

I know what you’re thinking. How can the two top constitutional functionaries in the state spend so much time writing to each other about how they are emotionally hurt in the middle of a pandemic? Well, that’s what we thought too and were fervently waiting for this is the end.

BUT… there was another letter. Thankfully this time just a four-paged one from the governor in which he once again called Banerjee names, finally calling her a “usurper of power”.

Mr Dhankhar, Ms Banerjee. We know that we’re amid a lockdown. We are all trying new hobbies. But if you people want some letter-writing practice, then please try other recipients as well.

Newsflash: We are right in the middle of a health emergency. And nobody, LITERALLY NOBODY, cares about your clash of egos, which is really, all that this letter business is about.

We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated.

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Published: 11 May 2020, 07:00 AM IST

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