The Last Straw: Why TMC Finally Sacked Partha Chatterjee

The Trinamool Congress has finally stripped arrested senior leader Partha Chatterjee of his ministries and all posts within the party amid mounting pressure to act.

Chatterjee was holding the portfolios of commerce and enterprise, industry, information technology and electronics, as well as parliamentary affairs in Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal government.

In the TMC, he was secretary general, a member of the disciplinary committee and several other committees, and state vice president.

Sources said Trinamool had to make this decision as there was pressure from inside as well as outside the party.

Chatterjee is accused of irregularities in the recruitment of teachers and staff in state-sponsored and aided schools, being called the “SSC scam”.

When during the first raid by the Enforcement Directorate about Rs 21 crore in cash was recovered from Chatterjee’s aide Arpita Mukherjee’s residence, the TMC tried to gauge the situation. Party leader Kunal Ghosh tweeted that the money recovered and Arpita were not connected to the TMC and Trinamool will not take any responsibility for them.

Then when Partha Chatterjee was arrested and his alleged link to the cash haul started to tumble out, murmurs emerged inside the party.

The visuals of the stash were spreading on social media and messaging platforms, along with the news of Partha’s alleged links to it and Arpita.

The issue became the talk of Bengal and the nation. This is something that disturbed the party, said an insider, as it was looking to emerge as a national alternative to the BJP. People’s perception of the TMC has been that it is a party that has developed through the struggle of Mamata Banerjee. Mamata is seen as a common man’s leader who is honest. This image was getting damaged.

Party leaders like Kunal Ghosh started saying publicly that if Partha Chatterjee was not guilty, why was he not stating it? It was becoming difficult for the party to defend him.

Mamata Banerjee clearly stated that if somebody was proven guilty, the TMC would not object even if he were given life imprisonment.

The party was demanding a fast-track trial. But Wednesday’s cash haul of Rs 28 crore during another ED raid on a different property under Arpita Mukherjee’s name proved to be the last straw.

Party MP Abhishek Banerjee will meet applicant teachers who have suffered because of the scam on Friday with the TMC getting into damage-control mode now.

“TMC is the party of the people, for the people, and by the people. We cannot betray our people. We needed a little time to make this decision. There is no party in this country that makes a decision within six days. We are giving the benefit of doubt to the people. We haven’t waited for the court verdict. We don’t support and expect the one-sided manner in which the central agencies work. Only one party gets benefits. There will be zero tolerance for corruption. We are putting this on record. The CM has taken the decision at the administration level, we have decided at the party level. We want the agency to complete the investigation in a time-bound manner,” said Abhishek Banerjee on Thursday.

BJP leader Amit Malviya, who is the party’s West Bengal co-incharge, said, “Mamata Banerjee had no other option but to remove him.”

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