Controversial Trinamool Congress minister and Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee was on Tuesday stripped of his twin posts of ministers for fire services and housing and also asked to step down as the Kolkata Mayor.
Without going into the reasons for the drastic step, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee made a cryptic remark: “He had earlier expressed his desire to resign four-five times. We thought that he will realise (his mistakes). He resigned today (Tuesday) and we have accepted it. He has also been asked to quit the post of city mayor.”
Chatterjee’s resignation was immediately sent to Raj Bhavan for Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi’s approval. Urban Development Minister Firad Hakim has been given additional charge of the two departments. Senior officials of Kolkata Municipal Corporation will handle the affairs till a new mayor is appointed.
Sovan Chatterjee had been under the scanner of the party supremo for some time since he got embroiled in family trouble, but matter came to a head in the state Assembly on Tuesday.
The chief minister was peeved by Chatterjee’s reply to a question on the data on homeless people and rectified it herself in the House. She called Chatterjee to her chamber where reportedly pulled him up for not coming prepared to the House.
She is learnt to have asked him why the party or the departments he held should suffer because of his personal life. Sources said though Chatterjee tried to clarify the facts he had placed in the House, Banerjee refused to listen to him.
Thereafter, Chatterjee went to the state secretariat at Nabanna to attend a function of his department where the CM flagged off 50 fire tenders. At the programme, Banerjee was seen visibly annoyed with Chatterjee and found expressing her displeasure each time he approached her on the dais.
When asked about it later, Chatterjee said he was only informing Banerjee of his plans to introduce more fire-fighting motorbikes.
After the programme, Chatterjee met the CM in her chamber and handed over his resignation from ministerial posts to the CM’s secretary Gautam Sanyal. Before leaving Nabanna, Chatterjee told reporters: “There is no question of resigning. These are all rumours. I have many enemies and they are spreading such rumours against me.” He said he would have to rush to KMC as he had some important work, but went home instead.
Sources said Banerjee accused Chatterjee of being “too much preoccupied with his personal life and ignoring the work of his departments”. She reportedly questioned him why he was irregular in attending KMC.
Chatterjee, who had once been a lieutenant of Banerjee, incurred her wrath since his relationship with a college professor and divorce suit filed by his wife Ratna Chatterjee became public.
Last year, in a cabinet reshuffle, Banerjee took away the environment department from him, and announced just before the Durga Puja this year that he would no longer be the party’s South 24 Parganas district president.
There was a time when there was a great bonhomie between Banerjee and Chatterjee. Once, when Banerjee was the Union railway minister, she “jokingly” pushed Chatterjee into a swimming pool she was inaugurating. The latter got drenched but kept flashing a smile despite the discomfiture.
Reacting to the resignation, the Congress demanded that the reasons behind it be laid in the state Assembly.
Leader of the Opposition Abdul Mannan said the chief minister was morally bound to inform the House which was now in session.
CPI-M politburo member Mohammad Salim said Chatterjee should have resigned from all important portfolios earlier when his “moral conduct” had been questioned.
The BJP hailed the step taken by the state’s ruling party but regretted that had the decision been taken earlier and Chatterjee hadn’t been allowed to stay on, the KMC and the two departments would have performed better.