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Thursday, March 04, 2021

Explained: Who is Rajib Banerjee, the West Bengal minister who quit Mamata govt?

West Bengal Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee on Friday resigned from the Mamata Banerjee cabinet ahead of the crucial Assembly elections. Who is he, and what is the significance of his resignation?

Written by Santanu Chowdhury , Edited by Explained Desk | Kolkata |
Updated: January 24, 2021 10:48:56 am
Former West Bengal Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee. (Photo: Facebook @Rajib Banerjee)

West Bengal Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee on Friday resigned from the Mamata Banerjee cabinet ahead of the crucial Assembly elections. Banerjee is the third minister, after Suvendu Adhikari and Laxmiratan Shukla, to quit the Trinamool government in the last one-and-a-half months. Meanwhile, hours after speaking against the TMC leadership following Banerjee’s resignation, TMC MLA Baishali Dalmiya was expelled from the party.

Who is Rajib Banerjee?

In 2011 Assembly polls, Banerjee was elected from Domjur constituency in Howrah district on a TMC ticket. Banerjee was made the state Irrigation and Waterways Minister. In 2016, he retained the seat. However, in the 2018 Cabinet reshuffle, he was removed from the post. Banerjee was later made the minister in charge of Tribal Affairs and Backward Classes department. After the TMC lost its Lok Sabha seats in tribal areas to the BJP in the 2019 General Elections, Banerjee was again removed from his post and made the forest minister.

A graduate from St. Xavier’s College, Banerjee holds an MBA degree from International Institute of Management Education (IIME). He also has a Diploma in Computer Application.

How was his performance as a minister?

Known for being a soft-spoken person, Banerjee has earned the reputation of being one of the best performing ministers in the Mamata Banerjee cabinet. He was also in-charge of the party’s affairs in rural areas of Howrah district and was instrumental in ensuring the TMC’s victory in Assembly and Lok Sabha polls. He has influence over five Assembly seats in Howrah district and possesses good organisational qualities.

Unlike Suvendu Adhikari who defected to the BJP last month, Banerjee has not been involved in any scams and there are no major allegations against him within or outside the party. He may not be a prized catch for the BJP, which has given an open invitation to him to join the party after his resignation, but the saffron party could benefit from his clean image and experience as a state minister.

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What is the significance of his resignation?

Banerjee’s resignation is likely to cause another sebtack to the TMC ahead of Assembly polls. This will lower the morale of the party’s rank and file and at the same time could encourage the fence-sitters and rebel party leaders to follow suit.

Apart from TMC MLA Baishali Dalmiya, there are several party leaders and MLAs like Prabir Ghoshal, Rabindranath Bhattacharya and others who have expressed dissent over the functioning of the party.

Ahead of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the state on January 30, Banerjee’s resignation could lead to another group of TMC leaders defecting to the BJP. On December 19 last year, seven TMC MLAs including Suvendu Adhikari, one TMC MP and one former TMC MP had joined the saffron camp.

According to the BJP, Amit Shah is scheduled to hold a public meeting in Dumurjala Stadium in Howrah district on January 31.

Banerjee, Dalmiya and Shukla have their constituencies in Howrah district which is considered as one of the strongholds of the party. With these three leaders no more with the TMC, the BJP stands to make a massive gain in the district if it manages to rope them in.

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