TMC plays down Rajib Banerjee’s resignation amid murmur of brewing dissent
BJP’s Barrackpore Lok Sabha member and Rajib Banerjee’s former colleague in the TMC, Arjun Singh said the young minister would be welcomed into the BJP if he decides to join.
West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) party suffered another major blow on Friday when forest minister Rajib Banerjee resigned from the government amid speculations that he too may join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the assembly elections.
Banerjee, the legislator from Domjur, is the second minister from Howrah district and the third minister in the state to resign on the eve of the crucial state polls. Banerjee had skipped five consecutive meetings of the state cabinet and more than a dozen party programmes since September last year, when he started voicing his dissent against a section of the leadership in Howrah.
Suvendu Adhikari, the heavyweight leader from East Midnapore district resigned from the government and the TMC and joined the BJP on December 19. Former Indian cricketer and sports and youth affairs minister Laxmi Ratan Shukla resigned from the party on January 5. He served as the president of the Howrah district unit. The government immediately relieved him of his ministerial responsibilities.
On Friday, Banerjee sent his resignation letter to chief minister Mamata Banerjee in the morning. “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 said.
Banerjee went to the Raj Bhawan in the afternoon and submitted a copy of the letter to governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
After meeting the governor, Banerjee told the media that he wanted to resign as minister two and a half years ago when he was removed from irrigation department.
“I held a meeting of the irrigation department in north Bengal on that day and was at a party meeting when I saw on television that I had been removed from the department. I was not even aware of it. I was extremely hurt that I got the news from television. Reshuffling the cabinet is the chief minister’s prerogative but the minimum decency was not shown to me,” said Banerjee.
“I met the chief minister and said I would no longer serve as minister. She stopped me. Subsequently I served as a minister in several departments such as tribal welfare and jails. I am grateful to the chief minister for giving me the opportunity to serve. People will decide whether I did well or not,” said Banerjee.
“I will continue to service the people from whatever platform I get,” he added but avoided questions on his next move.
Banerjee’s voice chocked while he was talking to journalists and tears rolled down his cheeks. “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,” he said.
Banerjee said that before meeting the governor he went to the chief minister's office at her residence and submitted the resignation letter.
BJP’s Barrackpore Lok Sabha member and Rajib Banerjee’s former colleague in the TMC, Arjun Singh said the young minister would be welcomed into the BJP if he decides to join. “More legislators and leaders will leave the TMC,” said Singh.
TMC Lok Sabha member and party spokesperson Saugata Roy said, “This will not make any difference to the TMC. If people like these leave, our party will get more consolidated.”
Another prominent legislator from Howrah, Vaishali Dalmiya, has also voiced dissent against the TMC leadership in the district. Former Howrah mayor Rathin Chakraborty has also aired his dissent.
Like Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Banerjee was one of the younger faces in the cabinet and known for his clean image.
While Shukla has said that he will stay away from politics and dedicate himself to sports, Banerjee did not comment on his future plans till Friday afternoon. There are speculations that he and some more TMC leaders may join the BJP during the next visits of Union home minister Amit Shah or BJP national president J P Nadda.
Shah is likely to visit Bengal on January 30 while Nadda is scheduled to flag off a roadshow in north Bengal on February 5.
Banerjee made news for his singing talent in June last year when he released a video of a Hindi song composed to pay homage to the 20 Indian soldiers killed in eastern Ladakh's Galwan Valley on the night of June 15. The song, ‘Hindustan Meri Jaan,’ was released on June 23. The video features images and names of the soldiers and their colonel as well as clippings of army exercises and Republic Day parades.
TMC leaders said Rajib Banerjee was having severe differences with the TMC’s Howrah unit chairman and senior minister Arup Roy.
TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee held several meetings with Banerjee to dissuade him from taking any drastic step. The young minister, however, continued to voice his dissent in public and on social media. “There are some leaders in the party who treat party workers like servants,” Banerjee said at a programme on January 3.
“If one wants to work then there are a lot of opportunities in the TMC. Only those who are leaving can explain why they are doing it. I do not think there are organizational problems in Howrah district. The TMC district unit has been revamped and many young people have been inducted,” Chatterjee said after Banerjee resigned.
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