Kolkata: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has accused governor Keshari Nath Tripathi of "threatening" her when he called her on phone to enquire about unrest in pockets of North 24-Parganas, saying she felt so "insulted" that she contemplated resigning.
"The governor cannot threaten me like this.... He called me on my phone and threatened me," the chief minister told a news conference at Nabanna, the state secretariat.
The chief minister did not make public the specific content of the governor's conversation but said Tripathi, who was closely allied with the BJP and the RSS before taking up the gubernatorial assignment, was speaking like a "BJP block president".
The sources said the governor accused police of doing nothing while one community was on the rampage and another was being targeted.
The version could not be corroborated with the Raj Bhavan. In a statement in the evening, the Raj Bhavan denied the allegations levelled by Mamata and said: "The Hon'ble Governor did say to the Hon'ble Chief Minister to ensure peace and law and order by all means. The Hon'ble Governor always holds the persons, who occupy the Constitutional positions, in high esteem."
The unprecedented disclosure by the chief minister - which was followed by a Trinamul Congress demand to recall the governor and a BJP call for central intervention - came at a particularly fraught time.
A Facebook post had ignited unrest at Baduria in Basirhat and adjoining areas in North 24-Parganas. The person responsible for the post has been arrested, four companies of BSF have been deployed and community leaders pressed into service to advocate peace.
A senior district official told The Telegraph late in the evening that the situation seemed to be "under control".
Some police vehicles have been set on fire and the superintendent of police attacked. No death or any grievous injury was reported but the situation remained tense, the official added.
At the news conference, the chief minister issued a blunt message: "I want to tell both communities and their leaders, listen if you have ears. See if you have eyes. I have had to suffer a lot of humiliation because of you.... I am not going to tolerate this hooliganism."
The political thunder began rolling in the afternoon. A few minutes before 3pm, governor Tripathi's office placed a call to the chief minister's cellphone.
Thirty minutes earlier, a delegation led by RSS south Bengal chief Jishnu Basu and BJP state vice-president Jayprakash Majumdar had entered the Raj Bhavan to draw the governor's attention to the unrest in Baduria. Some sources suggested that the delegation was still inside the Raj Bhavan when the governor spoke to Mamata but the version could not be independently verified.
Soon after, Mamata went public with the call at the news conference that was convened to announce the government's plans to revamp the Kalighat temple in south Calcutta.
But a question on the events in Baduria opened the floodgates.
"I have told the Hon'ble governor that 'you cannot talk to me like this'. The way the governor is speaking, it seems that the BJP block president is speaking.... After this insult, I had myself thought that I would resign. I have never been insulted in this way in my whole life," Mamata said.
She added: "I'm really sorry if I have hurt anybody because of what I said. I apologise for that. But my conscience was extremely hurt today. I have not sat on this chair just for the sake of it. I work hard to accomplish whatever I can."
Political scientist Biswanath Chakraborty said that the news conference by Mamata was "unprecedented".
The statement from the Raj Bhavan said the governor was "surprised" at the "attitude and language" used by the chief minister during the news conference. The statement said that "talks" between the chief minister and the governor were "confidential in nature and none is expected to disclose it".
"However, there was nothing in the talks for which the Hon'ble Chief Minister may have felt insulted, threatened or humiliated," it added.
"The Hon'ble Governor, being the Head of the State, is the guardian of all the citizens of the State and not of any particular party or section of society. It is proper for the Hon'ble Governor to bring to the notice of the Hon'ble Chief Minister any serious grievance made by any member of public or any serious event happening in the State. The Hon'ble Governor cannot remain a mute spectator of the affairs in the State," the Raj Bhavan statement said.
Meanwhile, BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya has lashed out at Mamata Banerjee for "inefficiently" handling the situation in the state. He demanded her resignation.
"She said she isn’t capable of handling the situation. She should requested for Central Armed Police Force but just to keep her head high she is leaving the state to burn. In this frustration she has accused the governor,” Vijayvargiya told ABP News in a telephonic conversation.
“She is making such confidential conversations publish which is unfortunate.. There are Pakistan Zindabad slogans being raised in front of police. If police takes action they are transferred. How will they work like this? Mamata should resign as the state doesn’t spear to have a government functioning,” he added.