Trinamool Congress leader Laxmi Ratan Shukla’s resignation from the Cabinet and TMC’s Howrah Sadar district president post on Tuesday has triggered a domino effect with more and more leaders coming out against the party’s leadership in the district.
Though Trinamool Congress (TMC) president and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had played down Shukla’s resignation on Tuesday, saying that the 39-year-old former cricketer was “still the party MLA”, and wanted to stay away from politics for now to “concentrate on sports”, things don’t look that simple.
The trouble in TMC’s Howrah district unit had come to the fore in July last year when the tussle between two ministers — Rajib Banerjee and Arup Roy — over allegations of corruption against some local functionaries became an embarrassment for the party.
Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee has been speaking out against a section of leaders in the party’s district unit, then led by Arup Roy. After he started skipping government and party events in September, the TMC leadership stepped in to placate the two-time MLA from Domjur and made Shukla, who has a clean image, the district unit president. However, with Shukla now quitting as TMC’s Howrah district unit chief, the factional feud in the party’s Howrah unit has only intensified.
Soon after news came of Shukla’s resignation, Trinamool MLA from Bally constituency of Howrah district, Vaishali Dalmiya, hit out against a section of party leaders.
Coming out in support of the former cricketer, Baishali Dalmiya said “there are termites in the TMC who are breaking the party from within”.
“There are some former civic body councillors and block presidents who did not perform. Now their only job is to humiliate honest MLAs and MPs. I have prepared a file on them. The party must deal with these people strictly,” Baishali, the daughter of former BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya, told a TV news channel on Tuesday. She, like Shukla, had joined politics in 2016.
Another TMC leader and former mayor of Howrah, Rathin Chakraborty, also hit out at the party leadership. “The TMC is going through a turmoil and many sincere leaders and party workers are not being given the opportunity to work,” Chakraborty said on Wednesday.
In the meantime, Cooperative Minister and TMC MLA from Central Howrah Arup Roy, who has come under severe criticism from the dissenters, reacted to Shukla’s resignation, saying “it was not the right thing to do” before the Assembly elections.
“Leaving the party before the polls was not the right thing to do. Also, if any leader has a problem with some leaders in the organisation, it should be discussed within the party, not in public,” Arup Roy said.
TMC spokesperson and Deputy Parliamentary Affairs Minister Tapas Roy maintained caution. “One must bear in mind that Arup Roy was a student leader who worked his way up to become a minister. He is a senior leader,” Tapas Roy said.
Howrah district has 16 Assembly constituencies. It has been a stronghold of the TMC since the fall of the Left Front government a decade ago. Five years ago, the TMC won 15 of the 16 Assembly segments.
In the last Lok Sabha elections two years ago, the party both the Howrah parliamentary constituencies – Howrah and Uluberia. Despite registering victories in both the Lok Sabha seats, the TMC trailed in seven of the 16 Assembly segments of the district.
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