Partha Chatterjee is out of Bengal Cabinet

Trinamool suspends Mr. Chatterjee

July 28, 2022 04:37 pm | Updated July 29, 2022 11:37 am IST - Kolkata

Then West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee is brought to a court after his arrest in Kolkata on July 23, 2022.

Then West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee is brought to a court after his arrest in Kolkata on July 23, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Five days after he was arrested in the West Bengal School Service Commission recruitment scam, the Trinamool Congress on Thursday relieved Partha Chatterjee from his ministerial responsibilities and suspended him from the party.

A notification by the State government said Mr. Chatterjee had been relieved of his duties of Minister in-charge of four departments with immediate effect. “All the departments with Partha da [Partha Chatterjee] are coming to me.. There has to be a Cabinet reshuffle [for the portfolios to be allocated to others],” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said. Among the departments which Mr. Chatterjee was in charge of included Industries and Commerce and Parliamentary Affairs.

Later in the day, the Trinamool leadership held a meeting and suspended Mr. Chatterjee from the party and removed him from the post of Secretary General and national vice-president.

Pressure was mounting on Ms. Banerjee to act against the Trinamool heavyweight ever since his arrest on July 23. The 69-year-old has been among the party’s tallest leaders after the Chief Minister and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee. Earlier in the day, senior party leaders, including spokesperson Kunal Ghosh, demanded action against the Trinamool heavyweight. The Trinamool leadership has been trying to distance itself from Mr. Chatterjee since the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raids and seizure of cash.

On Wednesday evening, ₹28 crore cash was seized by the ED from one of the residences of Arpita Mukherjee, an associate of the former Minister. This was the second instance when cash was recovered from one of the properties of Ms. Mukherjee. On July 22, cash and jewellery worth ₹21.90 crore was seized from the residence of Ms. Mukherjee which led to her arrest. So far the amount of cash and jewellery seized at two places has crossed ₹50 crore. This is the largest seizure of cash in Kolkata in recent times.

Combo image shows cash and jewellery recovered by ED officials from the residence of Arpita Mukherjee, a close aide of former West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee.

Combo image shows cash and jewellery recovered by ED officials from the residence of Arpita Mukherjee, a close aide of former West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee. | Photo Credit: PTI

“All the members of the disciplinary committee unanimously decided that he [Mr. Partha Chatterjee] should be suspended from the party pending investigation,” Trinamool general secretary Mr. Abhishek Banerjee said after a party meeting. Mr. Banerjee stressed on the need for a time-bound investigation in the case and said “we all want to know what is the source of the money recovered”. Mr. Banerjee said circumstantial evidence suggested that he (Mr. Chatterjee) might be involved and the Trinamool Congress had in this case given a benefit of doubt to people of the State by acting against him. “The onus is on him. The responsibility is on him to prove that the money recovered is not from proceeds of crime,” the TMC leader said.

Mr. Banerjee said, “Hypothetically speaking, if this Partha Chatterjee joins BJP a few months or few years later then he will become clean overnight.” He reiterated what the party chairperson had said that action would be taken against anyone responsible for wrongdoing in the TMC, be it secretary-general of the party.

Mr. Chatterjee and Ms. Mukherjee were arrested by the ED on June 23 after the first raid and recovery of cash. Both the former Minister and his associate were under the ED custody till August 3 in connection with the School Service Commission (SSC) recruitment scam where jobs were allegedly given for monetary gains. Mr. Chatterjee was Minister of the Education Department from 2014 to 2021.

The ED continued its raids on different locations, particularly properties of Ms. Mukherjee. The BJP and the Left parties hit the streets to protest against the recruitment scam. Mr. Banerjee has also summoned protesting job seekers who highlighted the irregularities in the recruitment and approached the Calcutta High Court on the matter. The High Court had directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe several such allegations and the ED is looking into the aspect of money laundering in the scam.

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