North Bengal Development Minister Gautam Deb has been removed as chairman of the North Bengal State Transport Corporation, the sudden move coming a day after he met the Left Front’s Asok Bhattacharya, newly elected mayor of Siliguri Municipal Corporation.
Although the move followed the meeting with Bhattacharya, party sources said it had been only a matter of time, having been decided after the party’s poor performance in the Siliguri municipal elections. “He was already in the bad books of the party chief after failing in the civic polls in Siliguri,” said a senior Trinamool Congress leader. “His meeting yesterday with Bhattacharya, after senior leaders and ministers had refused to meet the Left Front leader in Kolkata, upset the leadership further.” On top of that, the leader pointed out, Deb went public describing the meeting as very cordial.
Deb, who had been chairman of NBSTC since April 13, 2012, has been replaced with Saurav Chakraborty, Trinamool Congress district president of Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri. Deb said he had not been officially informed about the removal and would not be able to comment on it.
Chakraborty, for his part, said there was no question of having won over anyone. “I have been given a responsibility I will have to fulfil and I will need everyone’s cooperation. There is no question of rivalry here,” he said.
A party source, however, said, “There are more posts with Deb that could be taken away from him soon. He has failed to live up to the expectations of the party chief.”
Trinamool Congress national secretary general Partha Chatterjee said the removal had nothing to do with reasons being ascribed to it but agreed that the party had been expecting better results in the civic polls. “His meeting with Asok Bhattacharya or the party’s performance in the SMC elections have nothing to do with the move. He was not solely responsible for the poor show in the poll.s The party had, nevertheless, been looking for a better result in the civic polls,” Chatterjee said.
He claimed that Deb’s removal came after he had himself expressed his willingness to step down as he was being unable to concentrate on his work. “We would want him to be more focused on his primary duties, that is, development of North Bengal that he is in charge of. Again, he is also the party’s district president there, so he must also look to improve poll prospects. That is why he has been relieved of the duty of NBSTC chairmanship,” Chatterjee said.