Senior Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, who won the Bhabanipur assembly constituency in the recently held West Bengal elections, resigned from the post on Friday amidst strong indications that chief minister Mamata Banerjee will contest the seat to enter the assembly.
Banerjee won the seat in a by-election in 2011 and retained it in 2016. In the 2021 polls, she contested Nandigram, where she lost to her lieutentant-turned-rival, Suvendu Adhikari, in a see-saw electoral battle.
“I want that Mamata Banerjee should come back to her own constituency. That’s why I have resigned…this is my decision. The entire party wants her to contest,” Chattopadhyay said, lending credence to speculations doing the rounds.
Banerjee will have to get elected as a legislator within next six months to retain the state’s top job.
“Article 164(4) of our Constitution states that a minister who for any period of six consecutive months is not a member of the legislature of the state shall at the expiration of that period cease to be a minister…as per the Constitution, she (Banerjee) has to be elected within those six months to continue (as the CM),” political expert Kapil Thakur said. “If she is not elected at the end of six months, she will lose her post.”
The other option for Banerjee will be to enter the assembly through the Vidhan Parishad, or an Upper House. To be sure, Bengal doesn’t presently have a bicameral legislature, which was abolished in 1969. But the TMC government is considering reviving it.
Since Chattopadhyay too is an elected MLA and minister, he will have the same options to retain his membership of the House. Chattopadhyay, known to be an influential TMC leader, was personally chosen for the Bhabanipur seat by the CM. Presently, he is the minister-in-charge, department of power and non-conventional energy sources.
Speaker Biman Banerjee said he received Chattopadhyay’s resignation. “…there was no pressure on him,” he added.
The Bhabanipur seat is now vacant, and the Election Commission will decide how and when to conduct elections in such constituencies. As of now, there are six vacant seats in Bengal. Recently, the Dinhata and Santipur assembly seats fell vacant after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Nisith Pramanik and Jagannath Sarkar resigned as MLAs, while retaining their Parliament membership.
Also, elections could not be held in Samserganj and Jangipur seats in Murshidabad due to the death of candidates before the state polls. The Kharda seat also fell vacant in North 24-Parganas district after the death of TMC candidate Kajal Sinha before the results.