In another blow to Mamata, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Sports Minister and former Bengal cricket star, quits Trinamool Congress

Published : January 05, 2021 20:16 IST

Laxmi Ratan Shukla, who quit as Bengal Sports Minister and the Trinamool Congress. Photo: P.K. AJITH KUMAR

In another setback for the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal ahead of the upcoming Assembly election, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, a Minister and youth icon of the party, resigned from Trinamool on January 5. Amid speculation of his joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the cricketer-turned-politician reportedly said in his resignation letter that he was quitting politics to concentrate on his sporting activities.

Accepting his resignation, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “One can do it. What does it matter? Laxmi Ratan Shukla is a good boy. He has written in his letter that he wants to retire from politics to concentrate on sports.... I want him to do well in his sports and we wish him well. There is no misunderstanding on the matter.” According to her Shukla said he would continue as a member of the legislative Assembly and had not mentioned anything about stepping down from his ministerial post. But an official release from the office of Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, stated that Shukla had been removed from his post as Minister of State, Department of Youth Services and Sports, and replaced by Aroop Biswas.

Even if Mamata seemed to have taken Shukla’s departure sportingly, the reactions of other party members were sharp. Arup Roy, party strongman from Howrah district, likened Shukla’s decision to “an army General leaving the battle field ahead of the fight”. He dismissed the probability of Shukla’s departure having an adverse effect on the party’s election prospects. “If one general goes, another one will take his place,” he said. Trinamool spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said, “Laxmi is a bright star in the world of sports, but one cannot deny that Mamata Banerjee has given him respect, made him an MLA, a Minister, gave him responsibility and opportunity to work. If before an election he feels like taking such a decision, it is entirely up to him. It has nothing to do with Trinamool workers or the people of Bengal. You can rest assured that Trinamool is returning to power for the third time with more than 225 (out of 294) seats.”

Although the BJP did not pass the opportunity to take potshots at Trinamool for not being able to stem the erosion of leaders and workers from the party, it refused to divulge whether Shukla was in talks with the party to join its ranks.

Shukla’s decision to leave the Trinamool Congress has come as a surprise to many because he was in good terms with the party leadership and had been given important responsibilities in strengthening the organisational base of the party in Howrah town – the twin city of Kolkata. However, for quite some time there were also rumours that Shukla was unhappy with the party’s way of functioning. The rumours found further credence in the words of Vaishali Dalmiya, the Trinamool MLA from Bally, the Assembly constituency adjacent to Shukla’s (Howrah Uttar). “There are some negative-minded people in our party who continuously harass us. They do not allow legislators to work, try to demean them. Other parties like the CPI(M), Congress or the BJP do not insult us. It is our own party members like block president or councillors who oppose us. Now that he [Shukla] has left the party, he will be labelled a traitor, etc. What I want to ask is, are those people not traitors who like termites are destroying the party? Those who are not allowing people to work are bigger traitors.”

Recently, another influential Minister, Rajiv Banerjee, from Howrah, had raised a similar point when he said, “Every time I have tried to do anything constructive, I have been pulled back and sidelined; and those whom the people cannot tolerate, those who are corrupt and who lie, they are placed at the forefront because they can flatter.”

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