The TMC is likely to go in for a major organisational overhaul as well as a reshuffle of the state cabinet following the arrest of now-suspended senior party leader Partha Chatterjee in a multi-crore school jobs scam. Sources said the reshuffle will also aim at an image makeover for the party hit by school jobs scam probe.
Chatterjee, the former virtual number two both in the TMC and the government, was stripped of all ministerial responsibilities and suspended from the party following his arrest last week and the recovery of around Rs 50 crore from flats of his associate Arpita Mukherjee.
On Thursday, Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee had indicated that a cabinet reshuffle will take place shortly.
“Partha Da has been relieved of his ministerial responsibilities. For the time being, I will keep his ministries till a cabinet reshuffle takes place,” Banerjee had said. According to senior TMC leaders privy to the development, overhauling the cabinet was being planned for quite some time, but Chatterjee’s arrest hastened the process.
“The idea is modeled on Kamaraj Plan of the 1960s when several top Congress ministers had resigned to work for the party. Our plan was mooted last year after TMC returned to power for the third consecutive term. “Now, only time will tell whether there will be a wholesale reshuffle or only a few key ministries will be changed,” a senior TMC leader told PTI on condition of anonymity.
Chatterjee was in charge of five key ministries, including industry, commerce and enterprises and parliamentary affairs.
The TMC leader also pointed out that the organisational overhaul may reflect the policy of ‘one person, one post’ call given by leaders close to TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee.
“The party organisation will also undergo major changes. The policy of ‘one person, one post’ will be strictly followed. Some posts such as secretary general, which Partha Chatterjee held, might be abolished. These changes will be implemented with an eye on next year’s panchayat polls and 2024 Lok Sabha elections,” he said.
Apart from being secretary general, Chatterjee held the post of party’s national vice-president, a member of TMC’s national working committee, and chairman of its disciplinary committee, editorship of party’s newspaper ‘Jago Bangla’. This is not the first time that graft allegations have hit the TMC in the last 12 years of its rule in West Bengal. Earlier, four MPs and ministers each of the party were arrested for alleged involvement in Saradha and Narada scams. However, the party had then termed it political vendetta, unlike Chatterjee’s case when the party shunted him out.
TMC’s national spokesperson Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, when contacted said, “As soon as we came to know about it, we took action against him. This itself says that the party in no way supports corruption.” Another party spokesperson Krishanu Mitra said “one or two bad eggs” will not be able to halt Mamata Banerjee’s vision of replacing slogans with actions.
“The party supremo has devised a political culture to seek out leaders of merit and character and turn politics meritocratic,” he said.
Political analyst Maidul Islam feels the overhaul both in the ministry and in the party is the best possible way for an image makeover.
“The scam has badly hit the party’s image. Whether it will have an impact electorally or not, only time will say. But reshuffle in the state cabinet and the party will indeed send out a good signal, that party has no tolerance towards corruption and wrongdoings,” he said.
According to party insiders, TMC’s action against Chatterjee will have far-reaching consequences within the party as it will further cement the grip of the young brigade in the organisation, and weaken that of the old guards, whom the former arrested minister led.
Political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty feels that the development has further increased the stature of Abhishek Banerjee in the party as a “crisis manager”.
“The development will have further far-reaching consequences because, on the one hand, it will further erode the influence of the old guards and strengthen the young generation. Secondly, after Mukul Roy and Partha Chatterjee, TMC has now got a new crisis manager in Abhishek Banerjee,” he said.
BJP national vice-president, however, Dilip Ghosh felt such “cosmetic changes” won’t have an impact as TMC is a “structurally corrupt party”.