Amid speculations that West Bengal Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee, who skipped the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, and a few other TMC leaders may join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seems ready with their replacements in the upcoming 2021 Assembly polls. Rajib Banerjee along with three other ministers -- Rabindranath Ghosh, the north Bengal development, tourism minister Gautam Deb and state minister for fisheries Chandranath Sinha -- were absent from Mamata's Cabineet meeting.
There are strong indications that Rajib along with a few more TMC leaders, MLAs and district presidents will join the saffron brigade soon. However, according to TMC insiders, the rumblings among the senior leaders are not going to deter the TMC chief as political strategies have already been planned to sustain the crisis and the party has silently conveyed the message to their 'replacements' to take on the BJP in the upcoming elections.
Rajib Banerjee's discord with the TMC began a few months ago when he raised selective action against nepotism and corruption charges against some of the party leaders. He alleged that TMC was selectively sidelining efficient small party leaders while those close to 'higher level' were enjoying the liberty of doing whatever they wanted to.
The leader hit the headlines recently when several 'ideals of honesty' posters in support of disgruntled leader Suvendu Adhikari (now in BJP) and Rajib Banerjee were put up all across Howrah district and several parts of Kolkata. Rajib Banerjee, an MLA from Domjur constituency in Howrah district, maintained that he had nothing personal against anyone and his grievances were mainly against certain issues and leaders related to nepotism and corruption in the party.
On December 20, TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee and poll strategist Prashant Kishor held a meeting with Rajib Banerjee at Chatterjee’s Naktala house in south Kolkata but despite that Banerjee's absence from the Tuesday meet suggested his decision to join the BJP camp.
When contacted, a senior TMC MP said that the party leadership did not try to convince those that were angry but contacted them to resolve their greivances with the party. "All political parties in India keep a track on their leaders. Do you think TMC leadership was in the dark about the development which is happening today? People may have grievances but that does not mean you start blackmailing the party in the name of election tickets. This is not right. You see in BJP. They have show-caused several leaders for crossing the party line. It’s not that we didn’t try to convince those who are angry. We contacted them and assured them to resolve all the grievances they have. But every day their demands started growing and under such circumstances we felt that such people should go to avoid last moment crisis during distribution of poll tickets," he said.
In context of Rajib Banerjee and three others skipping the cabinet meet, he said, "Do you think without keeping Mamata Banerjee in front, anyone of them is capable of winning their respective constituencies. Do you think? Our party is doing day to day mock polling in every constituency to get people’s mood, their possible swing and their confidence on who they elected in 2016. It is a rigorous process and we are getting good results right from the ground. This time everything will be systematic and only those will get tickets that have the maximum possibility to win the polls. We all know how important this poll is for us."
Rajib Banerjee was the minister in-charge of Irrigation and Waterways from 2011 to 2018, and Tribal Affairs and Backwards Classes from 2018 to 2019.