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Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Another minister quits, BJP invites him to join party

West Bengal Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee resigned on Friday, dealing another blow to the Trinamool Congress fighting to stanch a steady stream of desertions to the BJP ahead of Assembly elections.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
Updated: January 23, 2021 8:44:22 am
Another minister quits, BJP invites him to join partyRajib Banerjee with West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar in Kolkata on Friday. (Photo: Twitter/@jdhankhar1)

West Bengal Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee resigned on Friday, dealing another blow to the Trinamool Congress fighting to stanch a steady stream of desertions to the BJP ahead of Assembly elections.

Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikari and Minister of State for Sports Laxmi Ratan Shukla had earlier resigned their posts in the government and party.

Rajib Banerjee had long been skipping meetings of the Mamata Banerjee cabinet, and had expressed unhappiness over the functioning of the party.

In his resignation sent to the Chief Minister and copied to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, Banerjee wrote that it had been a “great honour and privilege to serve the people of West Bengal”, adding: “I heartily convey my gratitude for getting this opportunity.”

Banerjee, the two-term TMC MLA from Domjur in Howrah district, later went to Raj Bhavan to hand his resignation to the Governor. Afterwards, an emotional Banerjee told reporters: “I had decided to leave the state cabinet two-and-a-half years ago, when I was removed as irrigation minister. I had expected the minimum courtesy from the CM as a co-worker that she would inform me about her decision before making the announcement. I came to know from the media when I was holding a party meeting. I had then decided to leave the cabinet and remain a party worker. Later, Mamata Banerjee pacified me and gave me new responsibilities and roles as a minister.”

He had taken up his grievances about the party with Mamata and other leaders over the last two-and-a-half years, Banerjee said. “Over the last two months, I have aired those grievances in public. But in last few months statements made by my co-workers have hurt me a lot. Personal attacks against me made me take this decision.”

“If only Mamata Banerjee had called me once over the phone, all issues would have been resolved,” Banerjee is learnt to have told aides.

TMC MP Sougata Ray said Banerjee’s resignation was expected. “Good riddance. He was not discharging his duties as a minister and party leader. We tried to change his mind. It is good that he resigned, else we would have taken action against him.”

TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said: “This will have no impact on the TMC. The party is like an ocean. There will be no effect if you draw two or three drops from it. If one or two leaves fall from a banyan tree, new leaves start growing.”

The TMC also moved swiftly to crush further dissent in the party, expelling MLA Baishali Dalmiya soon after she came out in Banerjee’s support on Friday.

Dalmiya, the daughter of the late cricket administrator Jagmohan Dalmiya, joined the TMC in 2016 and was immediately given the ticket to contest the Assembly election from Bally constituency in Howrah district. After Banerjee quit, Dalmiya said: “Rajibda resigning as state minister is a big loss to the party and the people. In Howrah district, we have faced a lot of disrespect from a section of the leadership.”

Within hours, the TMC disciplinary committee met and decided to expel her from the party.

Since December, nine TMC MLAs, including Suvendu Adhikari, have joined the BJP. Two Congress MLAs, an MLA each from the CPM and CPI, a TMC MP, and a former TMC MP too, have joined the BJP. Laxmi Ratan Shukla has taken a break from politics and Rajib Banerjee will likely join BJP later this month.

West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh appealed to Banerjee to join the party. “He has resigned as state minister but he is still an MLA of the TMC. We cannot do anything unless he resigns as MLA. But we will wait for him. He should come and join hands with the BJP,” he said.

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