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Discipline axe on Bloc minister

Calcutta, Jan. 12: Chhaya Ghosh, the minister for agricultural marketing, was removed from the cabinet today on charges of anti-party activities, a first in the Left Front's 27-year rule.

The Forward Bloc today asked her to resign, minutes after a meeting of the party's secretariat. Ten of the 11 members present at the Bloc office are believed to have backed the proposal to remove the party veteran as minister.

'We are left with no option but to remove Ghosh after repeated warnings have fallen on deaf ears. Today's development will send a signal to everybody that nobody is above the organisation,' said Bloc secretary Ashok Ghosh, confirming that she was removed on the basis of a report on her alleged anti-party activities.

Party insiders said another Bloc minister, Kalimuddin Shams, was removed two years ago as he had displeased the party, but the official reason given was his poor health.

Ghosh, a Bloc MLA from Murshidabad, arrived at her Writers' Buildings office as usual this morning, unaware that the wind was blowing against her. Soon, she received the party's verdict and sent in her papers to Ashok Ghosh.

The Bloc secretary informed chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Bhattacharjee told him that he would act according to the Bloc's wish.

Later in the day, the minister sent her resignation to the chief minister and returned to her Raj Bhavan quarters. An angry Ghosh said she had resigned on health grounds.

'The charges being levelled against me are concocted and false. I expressed a desire to step down a long time ago,' she said. 'I have decided to resign as MLA also.'

Ghosh parried questions about the charges, but admitted that her party had asked her not to appoint unemployed youths on contract to work under the 48 regulated market committees across Bengal. 'But there are no irregularities as many of our party workers from various districts have been absorbed,' she claimed.

Party sources said over 400 youths have been absorbed on contract basis in various markets in the last two years.

'The chief minister himself cautioned Ghosh against such appointments two years ago, but things have not improved,' said a Bloc secretariat member present at today's meeting.

He said Ghosh was also charged with distributing many new shops in various markets to those close to her.

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