In a surprise move, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday formed a new welfare committee for tribal people and made Rajya Sabha member Ritabrata Banerjee, who was expelled by CPI(M) last year, its convenor.
In September 2017, the Bengal unit of the CPI(M) decided to expel Banerjee,38, for disciplinary reasons despite the fact that the party had just nine members in the Upper House. The decision was ratified by CPI(M) central leadership.
Since then, Banerjee has been attending the Parliament as an independent member and supporting the Bengal chief minister in his social media posts. This triggered speculations that he was keen to join Trinamool.
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In another development on Saturday, CPI(M)’s former Rajya Sabha MP Moinul Hassan resigned from his party and said CPI(M) was making a mistake by putting BJP and Trinamool in the same bracket.
“I told my party that it needs to realign its relationship with other forces because BJP is our biggest enemy in Bengal. Differences with Trinamool can be sorted in other ways,” said Hassan. He was recently removed from the CPI(M) Bengal state committee.
“Bengal is surging ahead under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee. I am extremely happy to have become a part of this process,” Banerjee said on Friday evening after attending a meeting the chief minister called at the state secretariat.
The decision to form the Tribal Welfare Core Committee and make Banerjee its convener was taken at the meeting.
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The committee will focus on tribal development in the state, especially in the four districts of Purulia, West Midnapore, Bankura and Jhargram in the western part of Bengal, said a member of the state cabinet, who did not wish to be named.
Incidentally, Trinamool lost many seats and a sizeable vote share to BJP in the recent panchayat polls in these four districts and Mamata Banerjee pulled up local tribal leaders and ministers. She even took charge of the tribal development department, relieving minister James Kujur of his responsibilities.
“As convener of the new committee, Banerjee will report directly to the chief minister,” said the member of the state cabinet. He however admitted that the chief minister’s decision would make many Trinamool leaders unhappy.
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On the eve of his expulsion, Banerjee took potshots at the CPI(M) leadership and even accused it of being anti-Bengali. The party charged him with leading a flashy lifestyle and possessing wealth disproportionate to income.
“Many prominent members of rival parties have been inducted into Trinamool on July 21, when we observe martyrs’ day every year. Our party chief will decide when Banerjee will officially join us,” the cabinet member said.
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