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Bengal Governor Seeks Info on Anti-CAA Funding; ‘Absurd’, Says TMC

The governor’s office has sent a letter asking for details about the money spent on the campaign against the CAA.

Published
PTI
3 min read
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankar.
i

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar has demanded information from the state government on alleged misuse of public funds on an advertisement campaign against the CAA and the authorities who sanctioned it, official sources said on Saturday.

The governor's office has sent a letter to the principal secretary, Information and Cultural Affairs, to submit a detailed response about the money spent on the campaign against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), they said.

'Concerns' Raised

In a communication to the government on February 4, the sources said, Dhankhar took exception to the spending of "crores of rupees" on advertisements in print and visual media with a tagline "No CAA, No NRC, No NPR". Concerns were also raised about the involvement of senior administrative and police functionaries, including the chief and home secretaries and the DGP, in the ads that appeared by the side of the chief minister, they added.

Dhankhar had repeatedly cautioned the West Bengal government that funds from the state exchequer cannot be used for advertisements backing an agitation against a valid law. The Calcutta High Court had also subsequently asked the state government to suspend all such advertisements.

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TMC Hits Out

A senior leader of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), who did not wish to be named, hit out at the governor for crossing his "constitutional brief".

The governor, from the very beginning, has been trying to interfere in matters of the state government. This is completely absurd that he is seeking details (on the alleged misuse of public funds).
TMC Leader.

The BJP, however, came out in support of Dhankhar and alleged that the state government has been misusing public funds.

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Precedences

Apart from the infamous A R Antulay case, in recent times, the then Karnataka Governor H R Bhardwaj in 2011 had sanctioned the prosecution of Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa by the Karnataka Lokayukta under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, for his involvement in illegal mining of iron ore in the state.

The Bihar governor had granted sanction for prosecution of Lalu Prasad Yadav in the fodder scam case. The sources said it was alleged that no "live" media coverage was allowed of Dhankhar's address to the assembly on the opening day of the budget session on February 7 because of fears that he might raise the "misuse of public funds" in his speech.

The state government was extremely unsure whether Dhankhar would read out the Cabinet-approved address or go ahead with the changes he had suggested, they said. However, maintaining the constitutional practice, the governor stuck to reading the Cabinet-approved address. Dhankhar had suggested a number of changes in the draft budget session speech. However, they were not approved by the Bengal Cabinet.

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Dhankar and the Governor's Speech

Illustratively, crores of rupees have been spent on such advertisements in the print and visual/TV media that advance the agenda of the ruling party. The theme of the advertisement is virtual tag line of the ruling dispensation in the state.

"This is impermissible and legal outrage. Such blatant misuse of public funds is bound to generate serious consequences in law for those concerned," the governor had suggested for inclusion, documents accessed by PTI showed.

Alluding to the high court's intervention on this, Dhankar had also sought the addition that "there has already been a judicial intervention mandating a stop to this. The logical way forward needs to be expedited for this grave infraction of law and propriety so that law takes its course on fast track".

I am considering all aspects of the advertisement and role of the officials so that lawful course may be initiated.
Lines suggested by the Governor for inclusion in his draft speech
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The governor had also proposed to indicate in his speech the "worrisome law and order situation" in the state with numerous instances pointing towards "internal disturbances", an expression that finds mention in Article 355 of the Constitution.

(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

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