West Bengal Chief Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday accused the Centre of victimising the state’s former Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay by initiating disciplinary proceedings against him, PTI reported.

“The Centre must realise it is victimising an official who lost his brother, nephew and mother within a span of 15-20 days,” she said. “He is in mental agony because he has worked for the country all his life, and now he is being treated in such a manner. This is irresponsible behaviour and we will not allow this.”

Banerjee’s remarks came two days after the Union government sent a notice to the bureaucrat, warning him about proceedings that could lead to the withholding of his pension or gratuity, or both, either entirely or partially. He was given a month to submit a statement in his defence.

Bandyopadhyay had been summoned by the Centre to Delhi on May 28, in response to accusations that Banerjee had kept Prime Minister Modi waiting while attending a meeting on the aftermath of Cyclone Yaas and had then left without his permission.

West Bengal refused to comply with the Modi government’s summons. Instead, Bandyopadhyay retired from the Indian Administrative Service and joined the West Bengal government as a chief advisor to the chief minister, a political appointment that underscored his importance to Banerjee.

On Wednesday, Banerjee said her government fully supported Bandyopadhyay. “The officer can act on the central notice at his convenience,” she was quoted as saying by NDTV. “They [the Centre] are not following the law, only flexing muscle... country is not the BJP’s alone. Most states are run by opposition parties.”

Banerjee calls for bye-polls

The West Bengal chief minister also called for bye-polls in state, adding that she would ask Modi to issue instructions to the Election Commission, The Telegraph reported.

Banerjee lost the Assembly election from Nandigram to BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari in April. She has six months to get elected to the Assembly by contesting from another seat. Overall, the Trinamool Congress had won the Assembly polls.

Bye-elections will also take place in Khardah, where Kajal Sinha, the winning candidate, died before the announcement of the results. The elections will also happen in Shantipur and Dinhata, where the winning BJP candidates had resigned to keep their Lok Sabha seats, according to the Telegraph.

Banerjee said the elections could take place since within a week since Covid-19 cases in the state were reducing. “Why delay [the elections]?” she was quoted as saying by NDTV. “Bengal polls were held when Covid positivity rate was 30%. Now it is down to three per cent, or less.”