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Doubts over Partha role on Mukul turf

Calcutta, Dec. 26: Mamata Banerjee’s announcement that Partha Chatterjee would play a bigger role in the party has left Trinamul insiders wondering whether he will fit into the scheme of the organisation where Mukul Roy calls the shots.

Announcing the decision to replace Chatterjee as the industries minister, Mamata said he had to discharge key responsibilities as secretary-general of the party.

“He (Chatterjee) was saddled with many responsibilities. From now on, he has to assist me. He also has to give time to organisational responsibilities. Bechara ektuo shomoy pachchhe na (he is not getting any time). So I have decided to give the industries and industrial reconstruction departments to Amit Mitra. Parthada will retain the IT and electronics, and parliamentary affairs departments,” the chief minister told reporters after today’s cabinet reshuffle.

Chatterjee refused comment on Mamata’s decision. “This is the chief minister’s prerogative. I have always been a Mamata loyalist and will follow her command,” he said.

Trinamul insiders were, however, not sure about the role Chatterjee could play in the party ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Roy, the all-India general secretary of Trinamul, is not only leading the party’s alleged aggressive campaign of wooing elected representatives of other parties, especially those of the Congress, he is also touring states such as Uttar Pradesh and Kerala to explore the possibilities of Trinamul fighting elections there.

The insiders said Chatterjee had so far devoted more time to the government than at Trinamul Bhavan, which is regarded as Roy’s fief.

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“As secretary-general, Chatterjee has responsibilities like heading the Trinamul disciplinary committee, but Mukulda manages the party organisation. They don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. It would be interesting to see how they work together,” a Trinamul MP said.

According to sources, there has always been an undercurrent of rivalry between Roy and Chatterjee.

The sources said the two leaders’ differences spilled into the open when the list of panchayat poll candidates was being drawn up. “Chatterjee was in favour of taking strong action against leaders whose names had cropped up in connection with sham deposit-mobilising companies, but Roy did not pay any heed,” a source said.

“Parthada had publicly addressed the default crisis till Mamata announced that only she and Amit Mitra would speak on the issue. Before that, Chatterjee had been removed as the government’s spokesperson,” a minister said.

According to him, Chatterjee’s importance has been on the wane for some time. “Although it is being said that he will be used more in organisational work, the question is whether grassroots-level workers will listen to him,” the source said.

He added that Chatterjee’s organisational utility could be limited.

“Although Parthada was the No. 2 in the cabinet, Mukulda was seen much more with Mamata than Chatterjee. Now that Parthada doesn’t have the important industries portfolio, he is unlikely to be taken seriously in the party,” a senior district leader said.