The Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal suffered another blow on Friday with Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee becoming the latest to quit the Mamata Banerjee cabinet. Banerjee had been skipping cabinet meetings for a long time and had expressed his dissent over the functioning of the party. Earlier Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikari and former cricketer and Minister of State for Sports Laxmiratan Shukla had resigned from the government and party posts.
In his resignation, marked to the chief minister and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, Banerjee wrote: “I regret to inform you that I hereby tender my resignation from my office as cabinet minister being in charge of Forest Department on today, ie on January 22, 2021.” Remembering how it has been a “great honour and privilege to serve the people of West Bengal”, he added: “I heartily convey my gratitude for getting this opportunity. I have sent a copy of this to His Excellency, Governor of West Bengal for his necessary action. Kindly accept my resignation and obliged.”
Banerjee, a TMC heavyweight from Howrah district, later went to Raj Bhawan to personally hand over his resignation letter to the Governor.
Shortly after resigning from the cabinet, Banerjee said he quit the state forest minister’s post as he was “deeply hurt” by the personal attacks on him for airing grievances against a section of party leaders. He, however, declined to comment when asked if he plans to quit the party in the coming days. “I had grievances against some of the party’s senior members and informed the leadership about it. I also had a word with party supremo, but nothing happened. Instead, I was personally attacked by a section of the leaders. I was deeply hurt by the personal attacks aimed at me. Hence, I resigned from the cabinet,” PTI quoted him as saying after meeting Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar at Raj Bhavan.
On January 16, amid speculation that he may leave the TMC ahead of the Assembly polls, Banerjee continued his attack on the TMC, saying some people in the party were obstructing his “mission” to work for the welfare of people and grassroots workers. In a Facebook Live, Banerjee said, “I wanted to do some good work for the people but failed because of some persons in the party.” Banerjee said he was patiently waiting for the right time to get his grievances, “solely concerning the wellbeing of people”, addressed.
The Domjur MLA asked the TMC leadership to take “corrective steps” to bridge the gap between the party and the people. “Quite like my party supremo (Mamata Banerjee), I believe in giving respect to grassroots workers who selflessly toil for the organisation. However, if I see that these workers are not getting their due respect… if they are frustrated and pained, I try to communicate their sentiments to the top leadership,” he said.
Reacting to the development, TMC MP Sougata Roy said, “We were expecting this as he was not attending cabinet meetings for a very long time. It is good riddance as he was not discharging his duties as a minister and party leader. We tried to change his mind and make him understand. But he has decided otherwise. It is good that he has resigned otherwise we would have taken action against him.”
Since December, as many as 12 TMC MLAs, including Suvendu Adhikari, have joined the BJP. While state minister Laxmi Ratan Shukla has taken a break from politics, Banerjee is likely to join the saffron camp later this month.
BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, “TMC workers and leaders are quitting the party and joining the BJP. This is because they think that TMC will not remain in power for long. They are also expressing their displeasure at the functioning of the party. This is the beginning of the end for the TMC.”
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