(Eds: with fresh inputs) Kolkata, May 21 (PTI) West Bengal agriculture minister and veteran TMC leader Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay vacated the Bhabanipur assembly seat on Friday, paving way for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to contest bypoll from her old bastion, party sources said.
Banerjee, who lost the recently concluded polls from Nandigram, needs to get elected to the assembly within six months to hold on to the chief minister's chair.
TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh, however, refused to divulge anything on Banerjee's re-election, and said the party will come up with a statement at an appropriate time.
Chattopadhyay tendered his resignation to Assembly speaker Biman Bandyopadhyay in the presence of senior party leader and his ministerial colleague Partha Chatterjee.
Before leaving for the state legislature, he told PTI that he would happily abide by the party's decision.
'I am going to resign as the MLA of Bhabanipur seat.
This is my decision as well as that of the party. I am happily abiding by it,' the agriculture minister said.
The speaker, on his part, said, 'Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay has resigned from the Bhabanipur seat voluntarily. I have accepted his resignation letter after confirming that he has taken the decision on his own without any pressure or threat.' A section of party members speculated that the septuagenarian politician might be fielded from the Khardah seat, where bypoll has been necessitated following the death of party leader Kajal Sinha due to COVID-19.
There are others who claimed that Chattopadhyay might be nominated to Rajya Sabha.
The veteran TMC leader said, 'We must work to ensure victory of our leader Mamata Banerjee from a seat, as Bengal can prosper and move forward when she is at the helm. As there were talks within the party about her election to the assembly, and I was tapped in this regard, I readily agreed.' He, however, clarified that he isn't too keen on Upper House nomination.
Asked if he would quit as a minister, Chattopadhyay said, 'I will follow the party's instructions. However, I am not aware of any such rule, which entails my resignation from the ministerial post.' Chattopadhyay, who had earlier represented the Rashbehari assembly seat, contested from Bhabanipur this year and defeated BJP's Rudranil Ghosh by a convincing margin.
Banerjee had won the seat in 2011 and 2016. PTI SCH SUS RMS RMS