Ahead of the 2011 assembly elections in Left-ruled West Bengal, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has stepped down as the state Congress president because of “heavy responsibilities” at the Centre.
His close aide in the state and Congress Legislature Party leader Manas Ranjan Bhunia has been appointed the president with immediate effect.
Sources said Mukherjee had forwarded his resignation on Saturday to party president Sonia Gandhi who accepted it after discussing the matter with him. He later met Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee over dinner.
A party functionary said that for quite some time now Mukherjee has been impressing upon the high command to relieve him of the post, as he was unable to devote time for party affairs in West Bengal. He had taken over as the West Bengal Congress president in 2001.
Soon after his appointment, Bhunia, a legislator from Sabang in West Midnapore district, said in Kolkata that he would work hard to strengthen the party and also its alliance with the Trinamool.
“Time is too short. I want to put a collective leadership in place to immediately strengthen the party….The Congress must work as a family, a cohesive unit, without any discrimination,” he said.
On equations in Bengal, Bhunia said: “I will also work to effectively execute the electoral alliance with Mamata Banerjee. We must remove all hindrances to put up a united fight against the Marxists and defeat them.”
Party sources said Mukherjee finally decided to quit the post after the recent drubbing at the civic elections.
“After civic polls, Pranabda was keen on having a full-time state president who could not only strengthen the Congress but also work closely with Mamataji for next year’s assembly elections...” a party functionary said.
Bhunia is expected to meet Gandhi, Mukherjee and other leaders in Delhi on Monday.
(inputs from Kolkata HTC)