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Dola Sen defeat axe falls on minister
Ghatak earns Mamata ire

Malay Ghatak

Calcutta, May 19: The fate the vanquished Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have escaped has befallen a minister of the victorious Trinamul Congress in Bengal.

Asansol North MLA Malay Ghatak today stepped down as agriculture minister, having earned the chief minister’s “displeasure” for his “non-cooperation” that is being blamed for Trinamul candidate Dola Sen’s defeat in the Lok Sabha polls.

Nabanna sources said Mamata Banerjee called on governor M.K. Narayanan briefly this afternoon and requested him to accept Ghatak’s resignation.

Agriculture marketing minister Arup Roy will replace Ghatak, the sources said, adding that the new berth was Mamata’s “prize” to Roy for ensuring Trinamul candidate Prasun Banerjee’s victory in the Howrah Lok Sabha seat.

Repeated calls to Ghatak, who was appointed the chief election agent for Sen, went unanswered.

Sen, who had complained to the chief minister accusing Ghatak of non-cooperation during the campaign in Asansol, today said she had not heard about the resignation. “Anyway, I have no comments on this,” she added.

According to Trinamul insiders, Mamata had on Friday instructed panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee to tell Ghatak to resign, hours after Sen lost to the BJP’s Babul Supriyo by over 70,000 votes.

“The next day, Mamata called Malayda to her Kalighat residence and told him once again to step down,” said a Trinamul leader close to the chief minister.

Trinamul had been battling discontent in Asansol over the candidature of Sen, who was described by a section of the party as an “outsider”. In order to boost Sen’s chances, Mamata had addressed three back-to-back rallies there to drive home the message that Sen was her choice for the seat.

Sources said Sen had been handpicked by Mamata considering that the Asansol seat is dotted with small and medium-scale industries, and could tilt towards the Trinamul candidate as she is the head of party’s trade union wing.

Trinamul leaders in Asansol said Ghatak was unhappy with Sen’s candidature. The party candidate had last month accused Ghatak of not cooperating with her during campaigning.

Even Mamata’s intervention had failed to cut much ice with the local leadership.

Sen was unhappy with the turnout at the meetings addressed by Mamata, Trinamul all-India general secretary Mukul Roy and actor-turned-Rajya Sabha MP Mithun Chakraborty on April 30 and May 5.

On May 4, when Narendra Modi held a rally to campaign for Supriyo in Asansol, about 1.5 lakh people turned out at the same venue on the Polo Grounds where Mithun and Mukul’s presence could attract only 15,000.