The centre has issued an order to recall West Bengal's top bureaucrat from the state on a day a row broke out over a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay's tenure was extended for three months only four days ago, before Friday's order to recall him to the centre came.
The centre has asked Bengal to send Mr Bandyopadhyay to the Department of Personnel and Training's office in Delhi by May 31 morning.
The development comes hours after Ms Banerjee skipped a meeting with PM Modi to assess the impact of Cyclone Yaas, choosing instead a quick 15-minute interaction with him at an airbase where his flight landed. She was to attend a cyclone damage review with PM Modi but left after handing him a report. The centre alleged Ms Banerjee kept PM Modi and governor Jagdeep Dhankhar waiting for half-an-hour.
The Trinamool Congress criticised the centre's move to recall the top officer. "Has this ever happened since Independence? Forced central deputation of a Chief Secretary of a state. How much lower will Modi-Shah's BJP stoop? All because people of Bengal humiliated the duo and chose Mamata Banerjee with an overwhelming mandate," Trinamool MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray said.
This is not the first time the centre has recalled top bureaucrats from states to Delhi. Just before the assembly election in Bengal this year, three Indian Police Service (IPS) officers were recalled.
The Home Ministry is the cadre controlling authority for IPS officers, while the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which gave the order today to recall the Bengal Chief Secretary, comes under the Prime Minister's Office or PMO.
The centre invoked Section 6(1) of the IAS (Cadre) Rules while ordering the recall of the Bengal Chief Secretary. The provision reads: "A cadre officer may, with the concurrence of the state governments concerned and the central government, be deputed for service under the central government or another state government or under a company, association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not, which is wholly or substantially owned or controlled by the central government or by another state government."
If there is a disagreement between the centre and state on the central deputation of an officer, the rules say "the matter shall be decided by the central government and the state government or state governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the central government."