Kolkata: A day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's brief Kolkata visit, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee received yet another blow as one more rebel Trinamul Congress minister, Rajib Banerjee, quit her government, fuelling speculation of his defection to the BJP.
Within hours of Rajib's move, the TMC expelled his loyalist and the daughter of former ICC chief Jagmohan Dalmiya, Baishali Dalmiya, from the party, accusing her of "anti-party activities" after she supported him and slammed the party leadership. Rajib and Dalmiya are MLAs from Howrah district.
Rajib is a two-time legislator from Domjur with a clean image. He is the third TMC heavyweight minister to leave Mamata Banerjee's Cabinet in less than two months.
He tendered his resignation after he visited the Trinamul Congress supremo's residence in Kalighat. After that he met Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar at Raj Bhavan on Friday and submitted his resignation letter which stated: "I regret to inform you that I hereby tender my resignation from my office as Cabinet Minister being in charge of forest department today, ie. on 22nd of January, 2021. It has been a great honour and privilege to serve the people of West Bengal. I heartily convey my gratitude for getting this opportunity."
Rajib has neither quit as an MLA nor deserted his party. After meeting the Governor, he said in tears, "I never imagined I would have to take such a tough decision. If I have hurt anyone, I apologise with folded hands. Please do not misunderstand me. I was hurt within for a long time. That is why I had to take this decision with a lot of pain and pent-up anger."
Lashing out at the chief minister, Rajib added, "I had almost taken this decision two-and-a-half years ago when I was removed as the state irrigation minister. Though portfolio allocation is the CM's prerogative, I had expected minimum courtesy from her as a Cabinet colleague. But I did not get that even. I got to know about my removal as irrigation minister from breaking news on TV when I was sitting with party workers at an office in North Bengal. I had wished to resign then but was stopped by the CM."
Hit by his outburst, the CM, who was already furious at him for submitting his resignation letter to the governor also, recommended to Dhankhar to remove him from the Cabinet rather than accepting his resignation. Rajib was later excluded from the Cabinet by Dhankhar while the CM took over his portfolio.
The TMC mocked Rajib for his step. But Dalmiya, who is an MLA of Bally, stood by him like she did when Laxmi Ratan Shukla, another MLA in Howrah, resigned as a minister and quit the party recently.
She said, "Rajib's resignation will affect the party and public… We are insulted in Howrah always. There are some who are silent killers and backstab us and common people. If leaves, like Rajib, start coming off a tree one after another, it is harmful for the tree." Stung by her allegations, the TMC disciplinary committee expelled her at a meeting.