minister quits, MLA expelled (Eds: With fresh inputs, collating related stories) Kolkata, Jan 22 (PTI) The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal was on Friday hit by a fresh bout of dissidence as Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee resigned from the cabinet and disgruntled legislator Baishali Dalmiya was expelled from the party, with both appearing set to cross over to the BJP soon.
Joining the growing list of dissenters who have put the ruling camp in a tight spot ahead of the assembly elections, Banerjee told reporters that he was forced to quit after being publicly humiliated by a section of party leaders for airing his grievances over their style of functioning.
The suave 47-year-old leader, however, declined to comment when asked if he plans to leave the party in the days to come.
Coming out in support of Banerjee, disgruntled TMC MLA Baishali Dalmiya, who has been lashing out at the leadership for quite some time, said, 'Honest and sincere people have no place in the party.
Within hours, Dalimiya was expelled from the party by its disciplinary committee.
'Indiscipline won't be tolerated and stern action would be taken against those leaders who are trying to harass the party publically,' the TMC said in a statement.
An elated BJP said that the beginning of the end of the TMC has begun and the party would disintegrate soon.
Rajib Banerjee is the third minister to resign from the council of ministers in the last two months after Suvendu Adhikari and Laxmi Ratan Shukla. While Adhikari switched over to the BJP, Shukla expressed his desire to quit politics.
In his letter to the chief minister, Banerjee did not cite any reason for quitting the cabinet.
'It has been a great honour and privilege to serve the people of West Bengal. I heartily convey my gratitude for getting this opportunity,' he said in the letter.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar accepted the advice of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to remove him from the council of ministers, the state government said.
Banerjee had skipped the last five cabinet meetings amid murmurs that he was trying to distance himself from the partys leadership.
'I had grievances against some of the party's senior members and informed the leadership about it. I also had a word with the party supremo (Mamata Banerjee), but nothing happened. Instead, I was personally attacked by a section of leaders.
'I was hurt by the personal attacks. Hence, I resigned from the state cabinet,' he told reporters.
Banerjee said that he wanted to quit the cabinet around two-and-a-half years ago when he was removed as irrigation minister without being informed in advance, but later backtracked after the chief minister pacified him.
Sharing his resignation letter on Facebook, he said that he hopes to continue to work for the people of the state in the days to come.
For the past one month, the TMC leadership held several rounds of dialogue with Banerjee to redress his grievances. TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee and the party's poll strategist Prashant Kishor had tried to pacify him.
The Domjur MLA features in TMC legislators' list who have expressed discontentment over affairs in the Mamata Banerjee camp.
Barring Shukla, who quit his cabinet post citing apolitical reasons, most of them, including Suvendu Adhikari, have switched over to the BJP.
Meanwhile, after being expelled from the TMC for anti-party activities, Baishali Dalmiya said that she feels relieved.
'The decision to expel me shows that rotten elements are calling the shots in the party. I am answerable to the people of my constituency. If I can't work for them, if I can't speak for them, there is no use being part of such a party,' Dalmiya told reporters.
When asked whether she would join the BJP in the days to come, the daughter of late cricket administrator Jagmohan Dalmiya said, 'Let's see, only time will say (about it).' Reacting to the development, senior leader Partha Chatterjee said, 'I dont know why they come and why they leave. They enjoy power during their tenure and leave only at the time of elections.' Banerjee, Dalmiya and Shukla are MLAs of Howrah district.
'When the TMC was formed in 1998, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Baishali Dalmiya and Rajib Banerjee were not in the party. I always knew such a situation was in the offing. More the people like them leave the party, the better, TMC Howrah district chief Arup Roy said.
Senior TMC leader Subrata Mukherjee trashed the claims of Banerjee that he had faced harassment from people inside the party.
TMC MP Kalyan Bandyopadhyay dared Banerjee to contest from Domjur in the coming assembly election.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said, 'It is only a matter of time before the TMC disintegrates. If Rajib Banerjee and Baishali Dalmiya want to join us, we will look into it.' BJP national general secretary and the party's Bengal minder Kailash Vijayvargiya lauded Banerjee as a good leader and a successful minister.
Elections to the 294 assembly seats are likely to be held in April-May this year. PTI SCH/DC SUS PNT NN NN