Bengal minister quits assembly to help CM Mamata contest old seat
Bengal’s agriculture minister Sovandeb Chattopaddhyay, who won from the Bhawanipore constituency in south Kolkata in the recent polls, resigned from the state assembly on Friday so that Mamata Banerjee can once again contest the seat she represented twice since 2011.
Banerjee took oath as chief minister on May 5 though she lost from Nandigram in East Midnapore district. According to rules, she has to get elected within six months.
After serving in Banerjee’s cabinet, Suvendu Adhikari, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in December last year, defeated her in Nandigram, his old seat. He is now leader of the opposition in the state assembly.
“My party did not ask me to resign. I was under no pressure. I took the decision as a sincere worker of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) so that Mamata can contest from Bhawanipore again,” Chattopadhyay said after putting in his papers. “Her role in state and national politics is more important right now,” he added.
“Chattopadhyay came to my office a little after 2.30 pm and submitted his resignation. He said it is his voluntarily decision. I have accepted it,” said speaker Biman Banerjee.
The TMC routed the opposition by winning 213 seats. Following Chattopadhyay’s resignation, Bhawanipore becomes the sixth assembly seat to fall vacant. The state assembly has 294 seats but polls were held in 292 as two candidates of two seats in Murshidabad district died of Covid-19 before elections were held.
The BJP won 77 seats but its tally came down to 75 as two of its winning candidates resigned to retain their Lok Sabha seats. As a result, two seats are lying vacant in Nadia and Cooch Behar districts.
The Khardah seat in North 24 Parganas is also vacant as the TMC’s winning candidate died of Covid-19 before the results were announced on May 2.
The Election Commission (EC) has not declared poll schedule for any of these seats.
TMC leaders said Banerjee will decide what role Chattopadhyay, one of the oldest leaders of the TMC, will play. He may contest any of the vacant seats. The party also has the option of sending him to the Rajya Sabha as a seat is vacant because Dinesh Trivedi joined the BJP. Chattopadhyay, 77, however said he is too old to go to Parliament.
Like Banerjee, finance minister Amit Mitra also needs to get elected. He did not contest the polls. Mitra earlier represented the Khardah seat.
On May 17, Banerjee cleared a cabinet decision to form Vidhan Parishad, or the legislative council of the state assembly, which she promised before the polls. Banerjee said eminent people as well as veteran leaders who were not nominated for the assembly elections would be made members of the Vidhan Parishad.
Since Vidhan Parishad members can become ministers, Mitra can be inducted in the Upper House as the members are elected by civic body members and legislators. However, according to Article 169 of the Constitution, the Parliament has to pass a bill for creation of the Vidhan Parishad and the President’s assent is also mandatory. The process may take more than six months. In such a scenario, Mitra has to contest any of the vacant assembly seats, TMC leaders said.