The top two bureaucrats of West Bengal have asked to be excused from meeting the Union Home Secretary who summoned them to New Delhi on December 14 over the law and order situation in the state with special reference to the attack on BJP president JP Nadda's convoy on Friday.
The request "to be dispensed" from the Monday meeting is likely to turn into the latest flashpoint between the centre and the Bengal government.
The Chief Secretary and Director General of Police sought to be excused because the convoy attack was "already being examined", the state government said in a letter to Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla.
"While further reports are being obtained and compiled, in the circumstances, I am directed to request you to kindly dispense with the presence of state officials in the meeting, considering the state government is already addressing this issue with utmost seriousness," Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said in the letter.
The meeting was called via a letter this morning to the chief secretary and DGP from a deputy secretary in MHA. The purpose: "to discuss the law and order situatio...including the recent attacks on Z-category protectees", said the home ministry letter summoning the officers.
The centre's summons followed Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar's report to Home Minister Amit Shah detailing "deteriorating law and order" in Bengal.
Mr Dhankhar, governor in Bengal for just over a year, has been accusing Mamata Banerjee of plunging the state into lawlessness.
Mr Nadda's convoy was attacked with bricks, stones and sticks about 40 kilometres south of Kolkata on Thursday afternoon. Some leaders were injured and cars damaged in the incident, which the BJP said was the work of supporters of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress.
The Governor alleged a severe security lapse by the state administration and accused what he called the "political police" of failing to protect Mr Nadda even though he is a z-category protectee. The state government has denied the charge, blaming the incident on "too many cars" in the convoy and allegedly provocative gestures of a BJP leader.
"We had indeed made elaborate arrangements for security coverage of the protectees yesterday. The West Bengal police had provided a bullet proof car and a pilot to Mr Nadda, which was in addition to the escort (vehicle by state, personnel by CRPF) and PSOs (Personal Security Officers) he is entitled to as a Z-category protectee," the Chief Secretary said in his letter to the Union Home Secretary.
"The tagging of many vehicles to the protectee convoys however made the situation unwieldy, because typically, security authorities are to handle a protectee convoy of a few vehicles only," he wrote.
The top bureaucrat said seven people had been arrested and three FIRs (First Information Reports) had been filed.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has hinted the BJP staged the attack and falsely accused her party men as part of a political conspiracy in the run-up to the Bengal election due in six months.
When the incident took place, Mr Nadda's convoy was on its way to Diamond Harbour, the parliamentary constituency of the Chief Minister's nephew Abhishek Banerjee. The cars were attacked with rocks and sticks by a mob allegedly of Trinamool supporters. The BJP said its leaders like Kailash Vijayvargiya and Mukul Roy were hurt.
"Bengal has descended into an era of tyranny, anarchy and darkness under the Trinamool rule. The manner in which political violence has been institutionalised and brought to the extreme in West Bengal under TMC rule is sad and worrying," Mr Shah tweeted.
He said the central government was taking the incident "seriously" and the West Bengal government "will have to answer to the peace-loving people of the state for this sponsored violence."
The Trinamool said today that a BJP leader provoked the violence. The party also called the centre's summons totally unconstitutional.
"BJP leader Rakesh Singh was in a convoy in front of him (Mr Nadda). He has 59 criminal cases against him and he made provocative gestures at the crowd. An FIR (First Information Report) has been registered against him and seven people have been arrested over the incident," Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee told the media.