Nov. 27: Dissident minister Rabindranath Bhattacharya today launched the first direct attack on Mamata Banerjee from within the cabinet, saying she is “not an ideal leader” and taking potshots at perceived sycophancy.
“Mamata is definitely a firebrand political leader but not an ideal leader,” Bhatacharya told reporters at his Singur home today.
“I didn’t keep a photograph of Mamata Banerjee above my head in my Writers’ chamber like the others. The reason is Mamata cannot be considered great in the way Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore are. They are manishis (great men),” said the Singur MLA who was shifted to the less-important statistics and programme implementation department from agriculture in the ministry shuffle on November 21.
Bhattacharya had pictures of Tagore and B.C. Roy in his Writers’ chamber.
The minister iterated his allegation that a section of Trinamul leaders were openly extorting money. “Some Trinamul leaders are involved in extortion in the name of the party. I must call a spade a spade. Mamata is aware of this. I condemn extortion just like Mamata,” he said.
Bhattacharya said he received a call from the chief minister’s office this morning requesting him to attend Mamata’s administrative meeting in Singur on November 30.
“I have made it clear to the chief minister that I won’t join the statistics and programme implementation department. The leadership has to first tell me where I stand in the government since the agriculture department has been given to some other person. Only then will I decide whether I will attend the meeting,” he said.
Earlier, Bhattacharya had said he would not join his new office for 15 days.
Newly appointed junior agriculture minister, Becharam Manna, who along with Bhattacharya had taken active part in the anti-land acquisition movement in Singur, said Bhattacharya was “removed because he could not perform”.
“Bhattacharya, despite being an honest person, failed to perform as agriculture minister. That is why he was removed,” Manna said at Burdwan circuit house.
“I am holding this news conference at Mamatadi’s behest to tell you that the party does not approve of what Bhattacharya has been saying. What was he doing when he was a minister?” Manna.
He accused Bhattacharya of “roaming around” with people who had cases pending against them.
The CPM today showered accolades on Bhattacharya, praising him for his stand on extortion and wishing him the best for his new assignment. A CPM state committee member said the move was aimed at “pinpointing Trinamul’s lapses and embarrassing Mamata Banerjee and her government”.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose said on the sidelines of a CPM programme in Murshidabad: “Rabindranath-babu was a teacher. He is a gentleman. So he will not talk rubbish. He must have seen such extortion happening.”
CPM MLA and former minister Anisur Rahman called up Bhattacharya today to “wish him the best” for his new ministerial assignment.
“Rabindranath-babu is a perfect gentleman... a goodhuman being. He doesn’t behave like a person attached to Trinamul. When he was the agriculture minister, I had visited him at his Writers’ chamber many times. He always cooperated with us. I called him up to wish him the best for his new assignment,” Rahman said.
Asked if he spoke to Bhattacharya on his transfer from the agriculture department, Rahman said: “I did not talk politics with Rabindranath-babu.”
Bhattacharya regretted that although a CPM leader called him up “to express his good wishes, no Trinamul heavyweight did so”.