Centre Agrees To Video Call With Bengal Government Over Law And Order

In reply to the Home Secretary's letter summoning the two officials to Delhi, the Bengal government has suggested a video conference because of the pandemic.

Bengal had refused to send the officials when they were summoned for a meet with the Home Secretary.

New Delhi:

In Bengal's row with the centre over an attack on the BJP chief's convoy last week, the Union Home Ministry held a meeting this evening with two top officials of the state via video call after the Mamata Banerjee government refused to send them to Delhi twice.

Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla had summoned Bengal's Chief Secretary and police chief to Delhi but the state government suggested videoconferencing, citing Covid.

Bengal had first refused to send the officials when they were summoned last week, the day BJP president JP Nadda's convoy was attacked at a spot around 60 km from Kolkata.

The Home Secretary today reportedly questioned the Bengal officials on the convoy attack and expressed concern over law and order in the state. He also raised the subject of Bengal refusing to let go of three top police officers ordered to report to Delhi on central deputation after the attack.

The three officers, Bholanath Pandey, Rajeev Mishra and Praveen Kumar Tripathi, were allegedly in charge of security details when Mr Nadda's convoy was targeted by Trinamool Congress supporters with stones and sticks. The BJP said its leaders were injured in the attack and cars were damaged when rocks were hurled at them by a mob.

In response to the home ministry's letter asking the officers to report to Delhi, the Bengal government wrote that the officers could not be spared.

Yesterday, when the centre wrote for the second time on the officers, a furious Mamata Banerjee called it a brazen attempt to control her state by proxy ahead of elections due next year. "We wouldn't allow this brazen attempt by the centre to control the state machinery by proxy! West Bengal is not going to cow down in front of expansionist and undemocratic forces," she said in tweets.

She said the government's order of central deputation for the three serving IPS officers despite the state's objection was "colourable exercise of power and blatant misuse" of rules.

"This act is nothing but a deliberate attempt to encroach upon State's jurisdiction and demoralize the serving officers in West Bengal. This move, particularly before the elections is against the basic tenets of the federal structure. It's unconstitutional and completely unacceptable," she wrote.

This morning, Ms Banerjee's Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal came out in her support. "I condemn the Centre's blatant interference in the Bengal administration. Encroaching on the rights of states by attempting to transfer police officers to Centre just before elections, is an assault on federalism and an attempt to destabilize," the Delhi Chief Minister posted.