On July 7, the Budget Statement of Government of West Bengal for the year 2021-22 was printed with Finance Minister Amit Mitra’s name on it. It was, however tabled in the State Assembly by Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Partha Chatterjee. Earlier this year on February 5, before the State went to polls the interim Budget document with Dr. Mitra's name was tabled by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the State Assembly.
The long absence of State’s Finance Minister Amit Mitra from the Assembly proceedings has triggered speculations about the possibility about him stepping down from the post. Dr Mitra did not contest West Bengal Assembly polls 2021 due to failing health but was appointed the Minister of Finance for the third time in 2021. Sources in the Trinamool Congress said that Dr Mitra has expressed his unwillingness to contest in the Assembly bypolls.
Elections to seven vacant Assembly seats are due in West Bengal and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has on several occasion urged the Election Commission of India to hold these bypolls without any delay. Along with Ms. Banerjee, who is not a member of West Bengal Assembly since she lost at Nandigram Assembly seat by a narrow margin, Dr Mitra will have to get elected before the six-month window ends by November 2 to remain a Minister in the State Cabinet.
There is a little possibility that West Bengal Legislature Council, for which the State Assembly passed a resolution earlier this month and requires a nod by the Parliament will be constituted before November 2021. Therefore, facing bypolls, if they are held, is only option for Dr Mitra to retain his position as Finance Minister.
Higher ups in the Trinamool Congress government said that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has not yet taken a decision on the issue of Dr Mitra giving up the Finance Minister post .
On July 7, after the State Budget was tabled, the Chief Minister repeatedly asked journalists to direct questions related to the Budget to Amit Mitra who was present virtually at the press conference. Neither the Chief Minister nor Dr. Mitra has said anything about the speculations of him stepping down.
Not only has Dr Mitra been a crucial part of the Trinamool Congress government for the past ten years, he has also been very active in raising questions on the economic policies of the Centre.
Over the past few weeks Dr. Mitra has written letters to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, former Minister for Steel Dharmendra Pradhan on host of issues concerning the State. He also raised a dissent note after the 44th meeting of the GST council held in June and alleged of “authoritarian and majoritarian” role of Centre at GST Council meeting.
A PhD in Economics from Duke University, USA and former secretary general of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, there are not many in the Trinamool Congress to fill in the shoes of the 74-year-old economist.