All Eyes On Guv Speech As Bengal Assembly Session Begins

Kolkata: With the mercury level between Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal rising high, all focus will be on the inaugural address after the election by the constitutional head of the state in the Assembly on Friday.

Dhankhar will start reading out the speech at 2 p.m. He has already objected to certain portions of the speech and wanted discussion with the Chief Minister regarding that.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on the other hand, had conveyed to the Governor that the speech has been approved by the cabinet and cannot be changed. Now it is to be seen whether the Governor sticks to the speech prepared by the state or deviates from it.

The tension between the Trinamool Congress government and the Governor escalated after Mamata Banerjee alleged that the ‘Governor is corrupt’ and that ‘he has been named in the Jain Hawala case’.

Dhankhar countered immediately alleging that the allegation was a result of her impulse reaction to his (Dhankhar’s) objection to certain portions of the speech to be read by him in the assembly.

“I found that no one will believe some portions of the speech I was supposed to deliver on the first day of the Budget Session. I wrote a letter to the chief minister asking her to give some time ‘tomorrow’ so that we can have a deliberation on the speech. She called me immediately after that and said that the speech was approved by the cabinet. I asked her for a deliberation. She told me that she would get back to me,” Dhankhar said.

Experts well aware of the situation believe that while the Governor must attend the Assembly’s special session, there is no explicit rule that says he cannot speak of his own free will. “Article 176 speaks about the special address by the Governor at the commencement of the first session after election to the legislative assembly. There is no hard and fast rule that he has to read out the speech approved by the state,” a senior lawyer of Calcutta High Court said.

In support of Dhankhar, former Tripura Governor and BJP leader Tathagata Roy said there are no laid down rules that the Governor’s speech at the Assembly has to be exactly as drafted by the state government. “There is not even any well-established convention (on this). Guv Dharam Vira deviated from it in the West Bengal Assembly, and I did so in Tripura. Some MLAs yelled. Who cares?” he tweeted.

Apart from the Governor-Trinamool face-off, there are other issues also which will be very minutely observed in the Assembly on Friday. It is also to be seen what seat veteran leader Mukul Roy, who won the March-April Assembly polls on a BJP ticket, but later switched over to the Trinamool last month, gets in the House. Roy changed camps but is yet to resign as saffron party MLA.

Suvendu Adhikari and Mamata Banerjee will, for the first time, face each other on the Assembly floor. Once considered a protege of Banerjee, Adhikari switched over to the BJP ahead of the Assembly polls and defeated the Chief Minister from the high-profile Nandigram seat by a slender margin. The election result has been challenged by Banerjee in the court.

The Business of the House, which will begin on July 2 with the Governor’s address, will continue till July 8. The state Budget for 2021-22 will be placed on July 7. Apart from placing the state Budget next week, the Trinamool Congress government will also table the ad-hoc committee report to examine the recommendation for creating a Legislative Council for discussion in the forthcoming session.