Amid demands for expulsion of arrested West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee by Trinamool Congress leaders, the party convened a meeting on Thursday evening.
The meeting, to be held at the party’s headquarters in Kolkata at 5 pm, has been convened by TMC’s national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The meeting was convened hours after TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh demanded Chatterjee, arrested in the SSC scam case, be sacked from the cabinet and expelled from the party after nearly Rs 50 crore in cash was recovered from properties linked to him. “Partha Chatterjee should be removed from ministry and all party posts immediately. He should be expelled. If this statement is considered wrong, party has every right to remove me from all posts. I shall continue as a soldier of @AITCofficial (TMC),” Ghosh tweeted at 9.52 am.
Following this, he told reporters that he has full faith in Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee who, he thinks, will take an appropriate decision. “He (Partha Chatterjee) is saying why he would quit as minister. Why is he not saying in the public domain that he is innocent and has no relation with Arpita Mukherjee? What is stopping him from doing that? I have full faith in Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee, and I think they will take the appropriate decision,” Ghosh said.
Echoing him, TMC spokesperson Debangshu Bhattacharya, whose ‘Khela Hobe’ song headlined the party’s 2021 election campaign, also demanded that Chatterjee be expelled. “As a party worker, I feel that we don’t deserve this public humiliation because of one person. The leadership should take note of it and expel him from the party,” he said.
At 11.45 am, Ghosh tweeted to say that he was deleting the earlier tweet and it was his personal opinion. “In my earlier tweet, I had expressed my opinion. Now, the party has taken up the issue. Avishek Banerjee has convened party meeting today 5pm at TMC bhawan. I have been told to attend that meeting also. So, as @AITCofficial has taken up the matter, I am deleting the personal one (sic),” he said.
The demand for Chatterjee’s removal came amid the opposition BJP and CPI(M)’s attack on the TMC for not taking any action against him even as huge amounts of cash were recovered from properties linked to him. TMC leaders have been expressing concern about public perception over the recovery of the cash and gold. Ghosh had on Wednesday said Chatterjee brought “disgrace” to the party and “shame to all of us”.
The chief minister recently said that if someone is found guilty, she would not spare that person, even if he is a minister. Nearly Rs 50 crore in cash, and gold, believed to be in kilograms, were recovered from apartments linked to Chatterjee’s close associate Arpita Mukherjee, besides documents of properties and foreign exchange, as per officials of the Enforcement Directorate, which arrested them.
Chatterjee, the secretary-general of TMC, holds the portfolios of Commerce & Industry, Parliamentary Affairs, Information Technology and Electronics, and Public Enterprises & Industrial Reconstruction in the state cabinet. The CBI, as directed by the Calcutta High Court, is probing the alleged irregularities in the recruitment of Group-C and D staff as well as teachers in government-sponsored and aided schools on recommendations of the West Bengal School Service Commission (SSC). The ED is tracking the money trail in the scam.
Chatterjee was the education minister when the alleged irregularities took place. TMC’s mouthpiece “Jago Bangla” has stopped naming him either as a minister or the party’s secretary-general. However, his name remains in the printer’s line as its editor.