FIVE DAYS after he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with its investigation into the alleged school jobs scam in West Bengal amid recovery of crores in currency notes from his associate, Partha Chatterjee was removed from his ministries as well as all party posts Thursday. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) also announced his suspension from the party.
Chatterjee was State Education Minister when the alleged scam took place. He currently held various portfolios in the ministry, including Industry and Commerce.
“Partha Chatterjee, minister in charge, department of industry, commerce and enterprises, department of information technology and electronics, department of parliamentary affairs and department of public enterprises and industrial reconstruction, is hereby relieved of his duties as minister in charge of the aforesaid departments with effect from July 28,” said an official order issued by state Chief Secretary Hari Krishna Dwivedi.
Addressing a government event later, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she would look after these portfolios till she forms a “new cabinet”.
The decision to remove Chatterjee from all party posts and suspend him was taken at a meeting of the TMC disciplinary committee in the evening. The meeting was called by TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, hours after the chorus to expel Chatterjee grew louder within the party, with some leaders calling for his removal.
“Today, at the disciplinary committee meeting of TMC, it was decided to remove Partha Chatterjee from all posts of the party with immediate effect. The suspension will continue till the investigation is complete. Partha Chatterjee is a citizen of the country, and the law is available for him as well. If he feels that he has not done any wrong, he should prove this in a court of law and he will be welcomed back with dignity into the party,” said Banerjee.
In the TMC, Chatterjee held various posts including national working committee member, national vice-president, state general secretary, member of the disciplinary committee, and editor of party mouthpiece, Jago Bangla.
“At TMC, there will be zero tolerance towards corruption. In fact, we will request the ED to probe the matter within a specified timeframe,” said Banerjee.
“TMC is a party of the people, by the people and for the people. Governments might come and go, leaders might come and go, but people’s trust in Trinamool will never decrease. We are unlike other political parties in India. Most of them were jumping the gun and calling for the suspension of Partha Chatterjee. To them I say, within six days, TMC has acted. Show me any other political party that has acted this promptly,” he said.
“The person from whom cash was recovered is not associated with our party. But the party leader who was arrested in the case has to prove that he is not guilty,” he said.
The ED has said that over Rs 48 crore in cash has been recovered from different residences linked to Chatterjee’s aide, Arpita Mukherjee, who has also been arrested in the case.
Earlier in the day, TMC leader Kunal Ghosh had demanded that Chatterjee be sacked from the cabinet and expelled from the party. “Partha Chatterjee should be removed from the ministry and all party posts immediately. He should be expelled. If this statement is considered wrong, party has every right to remove me from all posts. I shall continue as a soldier of TMC,“ he tweeted.
Ghosh, however, later tweeted to say that he was deleting the post, and it was his personal opinion. TMC spokesperson Debangshu Bhattacharya had also sought Chatterjee’s expulsion from the party.
Earlier this week, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said that “anyone found guilty of wrongdoing” must be punished. “We have full faith in the judiciary… If anyone is proven guilty, then he or she must be punished. The party will also take action,” she had said.
Meanwhile, the BJP’s West Bengal president Sukanta Majumdar alleged that the TMC leadership was trying to make Chatterjee a scapegoat. “There are several people involved in this. Sacking him alone will not save TMC,” he said.