Photo credit: IANS


Kolkata/Jaipur, July 16 (IANS) When West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar was announced as the surprise pick of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for the post of Vice President, political observer in Kolkata, where he has spent the past three years engaged in an almost daily sparring match with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, has begun to read the signals sent by the BJP’s top brass.

By appointing Dhankhar, who was little known outside of Jaipur and the city’s legal fraternity until July 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has somewhat sounded the trumpet in the polls for Rajasthan, where elections in the Assembly will be held next year, and the Jats form a large bank of votes. .

Kolkata analysts also see the move as a message sent to Banerjee – that despite his obvious displeasure with the governor’s outbursts against his government and the numerous demarches made by Trinamool Congress MPs to Home Secretary Amit Shah to having him expelled from Raj Bhawan, Dhankar was rewarded with a higher position.

On other occasions, there had been quarrels between the governor and the government of West Bengal, such as when Gopalkrishna Gandhi and the then Left Front chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, had differed on the fact that the Police fired at Nandigram in East Midnapore district of West Bengal on March 14. 2007, which resulted in the death of 14 people.

But never has the government-governor feud in West Bengal been a daily affair, as it happened during Dhankhar’s tenure. He was the first state governor under whose tenure Raj Bhawan’s press conference became an almost daily affair, giving Dhankhar a platform to target the Trinamool dispensation.

The Chief Minister, in an unprecedented move, responded by blocking Dhankhar from his Twitter account.

Dhankar is also the first governor to express his displeasure with the state government through regular Twitter posts. What really angered the Trinamool Congress leadership was that Dhankhar had started firing similar volleys at official functions held at the West Bengal Assembly premises.

Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee even once said that if this continues, he should consider restricting the Governor’s presence in the House premises, which has never been heard of in a parliamentary democracy.

A seasoned lawyer, Dhankhar maintained that he had just used his constitutionally granted power and rights as governor, something no other governor had wanted to do before him.

In March this year, Dhankhar marked his presence in Jaipur as the chief guest of a seminar on the “Role of Governors and MPs in Promoting Democracy”, organized by the Rajasthan branch of the Association Commonwealth Parliamentarian in the Assembly Building.

There he went all out, saying that a governor is like a punching bag, who is invariably called an agent of the ruling party. He clarified that he was not a “proactive governor” but a “notebook governor”, who believed strongly in the rule of law.

Dhankhar then surprised his audience by saying, “People may not know this, but I share a brother and sister type relationship with the Chief Minister,” he said.

“How can the governor and the chief minister fight in public?” he asked and added: “I have always tried and will continue to cooperate with the government, but this cooperation is not possible with one hand. If there is no communication between the minister Chief and Governor, we will deviate from democracy.”

Prior to July 30, 2019, when he was appointed governor of West Bengal, Dhankhar reportedly failed to even find an audience, having gone from being a follower of the late leader Jat Devi Lal to becoming Minister of State for short-term parliamentary business. -lived the government of Chandra Shekhar (1990-91), only to find itself drifting to Congress, where it was ignored by Ashok Gehlot, and finally landing in the BJP in 2003, only to be held at bay by the supremo and then-minister party leader, Vasundhara Raje.

Born into a Jat family in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan on May 18, 1951, Dhankhar attended Sainik School, Chittorgarh, graduated from the University of Rajasthan and became an acolyte of Devi Lal, who served two terms as Chief Minister of Haryana and served as Deputy Prime Minister between 1989 and 1991, in the governments of VP Singh and Chandra Shekhar.

In 1989, when the Janata Dal challenged Rajiv Gandhi under Vice President Singh, Dhankhar secured the Lok Sabha ticket from Jhunjhunu’s party, where he defeated incumbent MP (and decorated war hero) Mohammad Ayub Khan. by an impressive margin of four lakh votes. Dhankhar was a member of the Ninth Lok Sabha (1989-91), and when Chandra Shekhar became prime minister for seven months (from November 1990 to June 1991), he was chosen for the lame duck ministry.

In the June 1991 general election, Dhankhar was unable to retain his seat (Khan was re-elected and was appointed as a minister in the PV Narasimha Rao government). With the political fortunes of his mentor, Devi Lal, on the wane, Dhankhar decided to join the Congress, which gave him a ticket to the Assembly and he was elected MP for Kishangarh in Ajmer District in 1993. He served his full term in Rajasthan. 10th Legislative Assembly until 1998.

This was the last public office he held until he was appointed Governor of West Bengal. Sure, he became president of the High Court Bar Association of Rajasthan at a time when his political career was going nowhere, but that didn’t come with the associated perks, privileges and visibility. to the occupier of the Raj Bhawan of Kolkata, which was modeled after the family home of Lord Curzon, then Viceroy of the British Raj.

Devi Lal’s former sidekick has found a political savior in Prime Minister Narendra Modi – not once, but twice.


Updated: 16-July-2022