New Delhi: The West Bengal bureaucrat at the heart of the latest clash between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has replied to the Centre’s notice accusing him of skipping the PM’s meeting last week. Former Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay has said in his response that he did not “abstain” from PM Modi’s Cyclone Yaas meeting at Kalaikunda in Bengal and that he was there “till the Chief Minister was there”.
He has said “as per the directive of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee”, he left the PM’s meeting last Friday for a review of the damage caused by Cyclone Yaas in Digha town, according to sources.
For allegedly missing PM Modi’s meet along with Mamata Banerjee, Bandyopadhyay was transferred to the Centre and ordered to report to Delhi on his last day of service and serve three months of his extension there.
Mamata Banerjee refused to release him and Bandyopadhyay chose to retire instead of moving to Delhi, after which he was appointed Chief Adviser to the Chief Minister.
Just hours before his retirement on Monday, the Centre sent him the show-cause notice asking him to explain his absence from PM Modi’s meeting.
Mamata Banerjee and her team had left after a brief interaction with the Prime Minister at the air base where he had landed after an aerial review of the Odisha and Bengal coastline. The Chief Minister’s refusal to stay and attend the meeting was partly linked to the presence of her former aide-turned-BJP MLA Suvendu Adhikari at the meeting as Leader of Opposition.
She has since asserted she had other scheduled meetings and had left only with the Prime Minister’s permission.
The show cause notice to Bandyopadhyay accused him of making PM Modi and other members of his entourage wait for nearly 15 minutes.
“In view of the absence, the Chief Secretary (Bandyopadhay) was called by an official as to whether they wanted to participate in the review meeting or not. Thereafter, Chief Secretary arrived along with Chief Minister of West Bengal inside the meeting room and left thereafter immediately,” the Centre said.
On Tuesday, government sources defended its actions, saying the Chief Secretary, as an All India Services officer, “chose to ignore his constitutional duties”.
Government sources said his retirement showed that Mamata Banerjee was on the backfoot. “She knows that facts of the matter are against the Chief Secretary and his behaviour was such that it will invite strict disciplinary action… All India officers are not expected to be part of politics. Mamata knows all this and his retirement is a last bid to save him,” they said.