Bengal guv Dhankhar attends Kali Puja at Mamata Banerjee’s residence

West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar along with his wife attended the Kali Puja at Mamata Banerjee’s residence on Sunday evening and spent more than an hour chatting with the chief minister, members of the cabinet and guests. He also prayed before the idol of Kali and watched the puja.

Though the enclosure set up outside Banerjee’s small single-storey house at Kalighat in south Kolkata was out of bounds for the media, Dhankhar could be seen hugging Trinamool Congress (TMC) secretary general and education minister Partha Chatterjee and exchanging pleasantries with him. The chief minister introduced Dhankhar to several TMC leaders and bureaucrats.

This came after weeks of headline-grabbing acrimony between Raj Bhavan and the ruling TMC leaders.

Dhankhar was sworn in on July 30. The first incident to grab the headlines was on September 19, when Dhankhar rushed to Jadavpur University, of which he is the chancellor, to rescue Union minister Babul Supriyo who was gheraoed by a group of agitating students.

Following that incident, the governor criticised the government for not paying sufficient attention to the Jiaganj triple murder in which a primary school teacher, his pregnant wife and their six-year-old son were killed. Police recently cracked the case and arrested the prime suspect.

Trinamool leaders, especially the education minister, alleged on several occasions that the governor overstepped his role.

The scenario appeared to be changing when Dhankhar said on Saturday that he would attend the Kali Puja at Banerjee’s residence and emphasised that he was deeply honoured by the invite from the chief minister.

“The puja at her residence began in 1978. My wife and I are extremely happy. We would visit her residence tomorrow to attend the puja,” Dhankhar said in Barasat, about 30 km away from Kolkata, where he had gone to inaugurate a Kali Puja. “We are privileged and honoured by the invite. We bow our heads,” he added.

On October 21, the governor had written to the chief minister expressing his intention to visit her place on October 29, on the occasion of Bhaiphonta, a day he described as “special for brothers and sisters.”

Banerjee who was away on a trip to north Bengal at that time wrote to Dhankhar on October 24, inviting him and his wife to join her on the day of Kali Puja. A statement from Raj Bhavan said the chief minister had clarified that she would be preoccupied with matters of communal harmony on the day of Bhaiphonta.

“It is normal that a governor of a state would visit the residence of the chief minister just as it is normal for government officers to attend a meeting called by a governor,” said Sayantan Basu, one of the general secretaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on Saturday, in a subtle dig that referred to the administrative officers staying away from meetings called by Dhankhar in Siliguri on September 24 and North and South 24 Parganas districts on October 22.

Incidentally, on August 15, which was also the day of Rakshabandhan, where 64-year-old Mamata Banerjee went to Raj Bhavan and tied rakhi to 68-year-old Dhankar.

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