Why Bengal Interim Governor Ganesan’s Invitation To Mamata Banerjee And Stalin To A Family Event Reeked Of Impropriety
A governor should desist from fraternising too closely with a chief minister or an active politician.
Besides, the event — his elder brother’s 80th birthday celebrations — was in itself not a major one.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Tamil Nadu counterpart M K Stalin were the cynosure of all eyes at a grand ceremony in Chennai to celebrate the 80th birthday of the elder brother of Bengal acting Governor La Ganesan on Thursday (3 November).
Banerjee flew down to Chennai on Wednesday (2 November) and met Stalin and top leaders of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). She attended the birthday celebrations of Ganesan’s elder brother.
Next to nothing is known about this new octogenarian and it will be safe to assume that Banerjee had never heard of him or seen him before flying all the way down to Chennai to wish him on his birthday.
It is clear that the Bengal Chief Minister undertook the two-day visit to Chennai only because Ganesan, who is the full-time Governor of Manipur and was given additional charge of Bengal in July this year — after incumbent Jagdeep Dhankar was elected the Vice-President of the country — invited her to his elder brother’s birthday celebrations.
Ganesan, however, should not have invited active politicians to his family event. It was not right and proper on his part to do so because he holds a constitutional post.
The event — his elder brother’s 80th birthday celebrations — was in itself not a major one. One could have understood and accepted the governor of a state inviting the chief minister of the state and that of his home state to a major event like the wedding of his children.
But the birthday celebrations of a sibling is hardly an event that the governor of a state will celebrate in a major way and invite the chief minister of a state to attend. That too a chief minister he has known for only a few months and interacted with, on only a couple of occasions.
It would have been understandable if Ganesan had known Banerjee for a long time and the two were good friends with strong family ties. That could have explained Banerjee attending Ganesan’s elder brother’s birthday party.
It is clear that Ganesan invited Banerjee to the event in order to strengthen his ties with her. What comes across as very strange is the absence of the Chief Minister of Manipur, the state Ganesan is the full-time Governor of, at the birthday celebrations in Chennai.
It is not known if Ganesan had invited Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh to the birthday celebrations. Assuming he did, the astute Biren Singh was right in not going to Chennai. And if Ganesan had not invited Biren Singh, the question would naturally arise as to why he did not do so.
Ganesan, 77, occupies a constitutional post and is bound by certain unwritten rules and notions of propriety.
A governor must maintain cordial ties with the chief minister and other politicians of the state. But a governor should desist from fraternising too closely with a chief minister or an active politician because he holds a constitutional post.
But Ganesan did exactly that by inviting Banerjee and Stalin to what should have been a very private family event. As a governor, as a person holding an important constitutional position, Ganesan ought to maintain a healthy distance from politicians.
By transgressing such unwritten rules or codes of propriety, Ganesan has exposed himself to avoidable speculation about his motives in inviting the two chief ministers and other senior politicians (of the DMK in his home state of Tamil Nadu) to his family event.
Ganesan struck a rapport with Banerjee right from the day he became the interim Governor of Bengal in July this year. Unlike his predecessor Jagdeep Dhankar, Ganesan’s relationship with the Bengal Chief Minister has been very cordial.
In stark contrast, Dhankar had crossed swords with Banerjee on numerous occasions and the two had a very acrimonious relationship.
Dhankar had openly pulled up the Chief Minister, her ministers and senior bureaucrats on a number of occasions and criticised them in very strong terms.
While no one will advocate testy ties between a governor and a chief minister, propriety demands a distance between the two.
That’s because the governor has to ensure that the Constitution is followed in letter and spirit by the state government. He has to make certain that the chief minister runs the state in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of the land.
For all practical purposes, the governor acts as the eyes and ears of the Union government in a state and has to alert the Centre about any transgressions by the government of a state he serves.
He has to red-flag such transgressions and, if he deems fit, take up such transgressions with the chief minister.
That is why a governor cannot have close fraternal ties with a chief minister or an active politician. A governor cannot take an erring chief minister to task if he is personally close to that chief minister.
Also, in the case of Ganesan, there is yet another impropriety that he can be accused of. Having joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at a very young age and served as an RSS pracharak, he ought to have imbibed the RSS ethos.
Celebrating birthdays, be it one’s own or a family member’s, in a grand manner with top politicians and chief ministers in attendance militates against the Sangh’s ethos.
RSS or BJP, leaders do not celebrate their birthdays, or those of their family members, in a grand manner.
Take Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for instance. Modi was also an RSS pracharak. He has been observing his birthday (17 September) every year by seeking blessings from his mother and then attending public functions mostly to dedicate projects to the nation. (Read all about it )
Other RSS and BJP leaders also do not celebrate their birthdays in an ostentatious manner. Most do not even celebrate their birthdays and mark that important day in their lives by offering seva to people or religious and other institutions or through charity events.
Ganesan was the general secretary and then president of the BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit. He served as a member of the Rajya Sabha from October 2016 to April 2018. He became the Governor of Manipur in August 2021.
Ganesan would have served himself and his office well if he had kept his sibling’s birthday party very low-key and not invited Banerjee and Stalin to the bash.
What he did was unexpected of him, and not the least because he spent a lifetime in the RSS that is famed for upholding virtues, values and propriety.
Ganesan is not new to controversies. While he was holding key positions in the state unit of the BJP, he had often been criticised by many within the party for enjoying a cosy relationship with the DMK, especially that party's first family.
He had once reportedly courted controversy while commenting on protests launched by locals against extraction of hydrocarbons at Neduvasal village in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukkottai district. He had said: "There is nothing wrong in sacrificing Tamil Nadu for the welfare of India" (read this).
In 2003, Ganesan was accused by the late S.P.Kirubanidhi, who was the first Dalit to become the president of the BJP's Tamil Nadu unit, of abusing and assaulting him. The two had gone to attend the BJP national council meeting at Indore in Madhya Pradesh.
After the meeting, Ganesan allegedly abused Kirubanidhi by calling out his caste name and twisted his arm. Kirubanidhi alleged he was abused and assaulted after raising the issue of reported misuse of funds by Ganesan (read about it here and here).
In September this year, Ganesan was slammed by netizens for pushing Indian football star Sunil Chhetri during the Durand Cup prize distribution ceremony at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata. Realising that he is not in the photo frame, Ganesan pushed Chhetri away (read this).
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