Kolkata, Firing a fresh salvo at the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Monday took exception to the ‘blackout’ of his address to the Assembly while the budget presented by Finance Minister Amit Mitra was telecast live.
“The State Finance Minister Dr Mitra’s budget speech was live while the address of the Governor under Article 176, an important occasion, in sharp deviation to practice was not allowed live coverage and media was also kept away. Leave to judgement of the people of the State!” Dhankhar tweeted as the budget address was on on Monday.
Later, Raj Bhavan issued a media release where the Governor called it an ‘intolerant act’ and ‘crucifixion of democratic values’.
“Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar has taken exception to the blackout of his address to the Assembly on February 7. Governor Dhankhar takes this as an intolerant act and violation of the rights of the people. This also compromises right to expression.
“Governor Dhankhar appreciated the direct telecast of FM speech as it helps people know about legislature working. However, this situation makes discrimination apparent. This is crucifixion of democratic values,” the release said.
According to Dhankhar, there is increasing transparency of House proceedings all over the country.
“It is for the legislator, executive and the media to engage in soul searching as regard this kind of media muzzling and censorship,” Dhankhar said, as he appealed to everyone concerned in the government and the legislature “not to belittle democratic values as narrow partisan considerations”.
Banerjee, however, dodged a scribe’s question on the issue, saying it was not her subject.
She said the question should be put to Speaker Biman Banerjee, who can shed light on the matter.
“That’s a different issue which the Speaker can tell. You can ask the Speaker. It is not my subject,” said Banerjee.
Dhankhar’s February 7 address to the state Assembly was not telecast live, unlike the last few years.
The lack of television coverage came in the wake of a stand-off between him and the Banerjee-led government over whether Dhankhar would read the full text of the speech pre-approved by the state cabinet.
Dhankhar himself had ignited the debate by commenting that he could leave out or make additions to his address approved by the state cabinet.
He had suggested some changes to the speech, which were turned down by the state government.
Finally, Dhankhar stuck to convention and read the entire cabinet-ratified speech, which had critical references to the National Population Register, National Register for Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.