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Mamata a dictator, says angry Congress minister

Tuesday January 17, 2012 06:56:59 PM, IANS

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Kolkata: Ties between West Bengal's ruling alliance partners Trinamool Congress and Congress worsened Tuesday with a Congress minister launching a no-holds-barred attack on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, calling her a dictator and questioning her performance in the government.

Angry over Banerjee clipping his wings by taking away two departments Monday during a ministerial reshuffle, Congress Minister of State Manoj Chakraborty said he now wanted to quit the ministry which lacked any "standing" or "stability".

Chakraborty, who had sharply criticised the chief minister Jan 9 when she asked the Congress to walk out of the alliance if it so desired, lost his two portfolios -- parliamentary affairs and small and cottage industries. And he was made minister of state for food processing and horticulture.

"In September, I was given cottage and small scale after I found no role for myself in parliamentary affairs. I have given not 100 percent, but 200 percent as minister. And if performance is the criterion, the fact is people are raising questions about Mamata Banerjee's performance," said Chakraborty.

An MLA from Congress stronghold Murshidabad district, Chakraborty is also a staunch loyalist of Banerjee's bete noire and Congress MP Adhir Chowdhury.

"I don't know why I was shifted. It was done with an attitude of vengeance. If the party permits me, I'll quit. I don't want to bear such insults. Dignity is most important to me."

"It's dictatorship. The ministry lacks any standing or stability," said a fuming Chakraborty.

The minister said he has already spoken to Congress heavyweight and union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Chowdhury. "Adhir babu has asked me to resign. Pranab babu has said he will look into it."

Chakraborty said he would fax his resignation to Congress president Sonia Gandhi soon.

"If the Congress has a compulsion to continue in this ministry, they should look for someone else."

"My resignation letter is ready. Only the date has to be put," he said, displaying a typed sheet.

He also did not spare senior state Congress leader and Minister for Irrigation Manas Bhuniya. Accusing Bhuniya, a former PCC chief, of doublespeak, Chakraborty said: "He has been repeatedly asking me to tell Pranab babu how long more the Congress should stay in the ministry by stomaching all sorts of insults."

"But again, he is all sweet and honey when he comes out of the chief minister's chamber. Actually, he is too fond of the ministerial chair," Chakraborty said, when a media person pointed out that Banerjee had discussed the portfolio reshuffle with Bhuniya in advance.

Adhir Chowdhury stood firmly behind Chakraborty, saying he has spoken out after being humiliated.

"The attitude of the chief minister is unacceptable. She should have consulted the Congress state leadership before shuffling the portfolio of our ministers. It was the chief minister who asked us to leave the alliance by holding a media meet at the state secretariat. Others are now only following him."

"The chief minister has acted out of political vendetta. She has a dictatorial attitude. Even Trinamool ministers have swords hanging over them. She is showing the arrogance of majority."

Another Congress cabinet minister, Abu Hena, also from Murshidabad and Chakraborty's loyalist, lost food processing and was left with only fisheries.

Chowdhury also sharply criticised the government's performance, particularly in health, a portfolio held by Banerjee. "Babies are being stolen from government hospitals, and children are dying there a dime a dozen. These things are sending wrong signals about the government."

Chowdhury, however, criticised Chakraborty's comments on Bhuniya. "I don't appreciate this. He should not have said such things publicly."

State Congress leader Om Prakash Mishra called Chakraborty an "asset" for the Congress.

The Trinamool hit back. "It is not fair to attack the chief minister and the government's performance while you are in the ministry. One should leave the ministry before making such remarks," said Industry Minister and senior Trinamool leader Partha Chattejee.

The Congress and the Trinamool are alliance partners both in the state and at the centre. But the Congress, which spearheads the United Progressive Alliance in Delhi, does not have substantial numbers in West Bengal, where Trinamool has a majority on its own in the assembly.




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