TMC minister Rajib Banerjee quits cabinet; party expels another MLA
In a fresh jolt to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) dispensation, West Bengal forest minister Rajib Banerjee on Friday stepped down from his post amid speculation that he may soon quit the ruling party to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the crucial assembly elections due in April-May.
Later in the day, in a strong message to rebel leaders, the TMC expelled Vaishali Dalmiya, MLA from Bally in Howrah district, from the party amid speculations that the she, along with Banerjee, may soon join the BJP.
Banerjee, the MLA from Domjur who has been airing his grievances against a section of leaders of the ruling party over the past few months, is the second minister from Howrah district and third minister in the state to have resigned from the Mamata Banerjee cabinet. He has skipped at least five consecutive meetings of the cabinet and more than a dozen party programmes since September last year.
“For the past one-and-a-half months, I was extremely hurt by the behavior of some of my party colleagues. I never made any personal attack. I feel extremely hurt today. I had no option but to resign. I offer my apology if I have hurt anyone,” a choked Banerjee told reporters in Kolkata, as the former minister tried to hold back his tears.
The TMC leader submitted his resignation letter to the CM in the morning and a copy of the same was accepted by West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar in the afternoon.
“I regret to inform you that I hereby tender my resignation from my office as a cabinet minister being in charge of the forest department …..It has been a great honour and privilege to serve the people of West Bengal. I heartily convey my gratitude for getting this opportunity,” the letter read. Avoiding questions on his next move, he said: “I will continue to serve the people from whatever platform I get.”
The TMC leader’s former colleague and BJP’s MP from Barrackpore Arjun Singh said that Banerjee was welcomed to join the saffron party. “More legislators and leaders will leave the TMC,” he said. However, TMC MP and party spokesperson Saugata Roy said the party will not be affected by the resignation. “This will not make any difference to the TMC. If people like these leave, our party will get more consolidated,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dalmiya drew the ire of the party leadership over her recent remarks that there are “termites in the TMC who are breaking the party from within.” “Does working for people tantamount to breach of party discipline? I spoke against unfair activities in the party. I came to serve the people and will do so in the future. I have not decided what I will do right now,” she said on her expulsion.
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