Sultan Ahmed (left) and Humayun Kabir
Calcutta, March 3: Trinamul MP Sultan Ahmed today said minister Humayun Kabir “should step down immediately”, the stance at variance with senior leaders Mukul Roy and Chandrima Bhattacharya and baring growing dissent in the party on the matter.
Ahmed, a former junior central tourism minister, said Kabir should quit as minister as he had been “rejected” by the people of Rejinagar in the bypoll.
Ahmed said he was “raising an ethical question” as it was “morally unjust” for Kabir to hold onto his chair after losing the mandate. He said Kabir’s continuance would “tarnish the party’s image”, a sentiment echoed by some other Trinamul leaders who did not wish to be named.
Ahmed told The Telegraph over the phone this afternoon: “Kabir should not be allowed to discharge his duties as minister after he lost the bypoll because his continuance in office is sending a wrong message to the people before the rural polls.”
Ahmed, who is a member of the government’s advisory council on minority affairs that reports to Mamata Banerjee, added: “Kabir might continue in office till May 19 (when he completes six months in office without being an elected member) as guaranteed by the Constitution. But I am raising an ethical question. It is morally unjust for somebody to continue as minister after being rejected by the people.
“Such an immoral move will tarnish our image and give a handle to the Opposition Left and the Congress to campaign against us in the run-up to the panchayat polls.”
Yesterday, law minister Bhattacharya stood by Kabir, the junior animal resources development minister. She said Kabir could be appointed for fresh six-month terms once he resigns on May 19 and that she was “least bothered” about morality. She had said it was the chief minister’sprerogative to retain Kabir and she could “keep reappointing” him as there was no constitutional bar.
Today, when Ahmed was asked if he had discussed the issue with Mamata before calling for Kabir’s resignation, he replied in the negative.
Law minister Bhattacharya today refused to get drawn into the matter when told about Ahmed’s observations. “What I had said yesterday was backed by party all-India general secretary Mukul Roy, who too said there was no problem in Kabir’s continuance in office,” she said.
A section of Trinamul leaders backed Ahmed, saying Kabir’s holding on to the chair was “in bad taste”. “Sultan is justified in calling for Kabir’s resignation. We have the majority in the Assembly. Why are we sticking with Kabir?” asked a minister in Mamata’s cabinet. “Can’t we replace him?”
A Trinamul general secretary said on condition of anonymity: “There is no denying that a section of senior party leaders is expressing discontent over certain uncomfortable things happening in Trinamul, even incurring the displeasure of the brass.”
Last year, senior party leader Saugata Roy had publicly expressed dissatisfaction that “people who have passed just Class VIII (are) being made presidents of college governing bodies”, in an apparent reference to Arabul Islam.
Veteran trade union leader Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay had spoken up against the leadership after being allegedly heckled by a Trinamul faction. Singur MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya quit from the minister’s post after being shifted out of the agriculture department.
Kabir, who switched to Trinamul from the Congress in November, today said he would continue in office, regardless of what some Trinamul leaders said.
“I will reach my office at Writers’ tomorrow at 10.30am and remain there till 5.30pm. I shall keep doing so meticulously till May 19,” he said. “On the day of my resignation, Mamatadi might reappoint me for another six months and get me elected in a bypoll.”
“I am not bothered about what Trinamul leaders are saying about my continuance in office. I will continue as long as Mamatadi desires…. I enjoy her blessings,” he added.