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Cong six skip cabinet meet

Calcutta, Sept. 19: All six Congress ministers in the Mamata Banerjee government skipped a cabinet meeting today after the high command’s clearance, the first such boycott since the change of guard last year.

Cabinet ministers Manas Bhunia and Abu Hena, and junior ministers Sabina Yasmin, Abu Naser Khan Chowdhury, Sunil Tirkey and P.N. Roy attended office today but stayed away from the fortnightly meeting at Writers’.

While Bhunia and Yasmin have their offices in Writers’, Tirkey works out of Khadya Bhavan. The offices of Hena, Khan Chowdhury and Roy are in Salt Lake.

“Although all of us attended office like any other day, we skipped the cabinet meeting after getting the high command’s go-ahead,” Bhunia said.

The AICC’s minder for Bengal, Shakeel Ahmed, said he had asked the ministers to stay away from the meeting in the wake of “Mamataji’s announcement that she wants to withdraw support from the Centre”.

“However, we are in favour of going slow on pulling out our ministers from Mamataji’s cabinet. They have been told that the leadership will take a decision after Friday, when her ministers are supposed to tender their resignations to the Prime Minister,” Ahmed said.

He said the high command had “no option but to allow the ministers to skip today’s meeting”.

The Trinamul leadership shrugged off the no-show. “The Congress ministers showed themselves in poor light before the people by staying away from the meeting,” a Trinamul minister said.

Bengal Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya, who returned to Calcutta from Delhi tonight, said the ministers had “done the right thing”. “Our ministers are unhappy with Mamata’s announcement yesterday. So I think they acted rightly by skipping the meeting,” he said.

Asked if such protests would be repeated in the future, Bhunia said: “We will attend all important meetings that the chief minister will hold till Friday.”

Tirkey said he was going for the meeting “when Manasbabu called me up to convey the other ministers’ decision”.

Congress leaders and workers from the districts today called up state party headquarters Bidhan Bhavan throughout the day to enquire about their next course of action.