Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee removed minority affairs and Madrassah education minister Ghulam Rabbani and moved him to the horticulture department during a cabinet meeting, Monday. The CM will now take charge of the portfolio with Tajmul Hossain as the Minister of State (MoS).
Tajmul Hossain told ThePrint Monday, “The official notification hasn’t been issued yet but Didi (Mamata Banerjee) has asked me to oversee the minority affairs department. A development board for the welfare of minorities in the state will also be constituted. She’s given instructions to strengthen and work for the development of the minorities on ground.”
The decision to remove Rabanni, who took oath as the cabinet minister in May 2021 comes close on the heels of the ruling party Trinamool Congress’s shocking Sagardighi bypoll defeat.
Party sources present in the cabinet meeting, who wished not to be named, told ThePrint, that the CM was miffed with Rabbani as signs of minority (Muslim community) support began slipping for the party.
In a major setback, TMC lost its first bypoll since the 2021 landslide victory in the state. On 2 March, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-backed Congress candidate Bayron Biswas defeated TMC’s Debashish Banerjee by a margin of 22,980 votes. Sagardighi has a 64 per cent minority voteshare, which the Trinamool failed to capture.
A three-time MLA from Uttar Dinajpur, Rabbani was with the Congress before he joined the Trinamool in 2014. In 2016, he won the state polls and was appointed the minister of state labour department by Mamata Banerjee.
Speaking to the media after the cabinet meeting, state law minister Maloy Ghatak said, “For the development of the minorities across the state, the cabinet has given its nod to form a Minority Development Board.”
According to political analyst Udayan Bandopadhyay, the TMC that electorally enjoyed the support of minorities to defeat the BJP in 2021 wants to ensure it doesn’t lose grip over it before the crucial panchayat polls which will be a litmus test for 2024 Lok Sabha polls for political parties in Bengal.
“Muslim student leader Anis Khan’s death and ISF MLA Naushad Siddiqui being jailed for over a month, followed by Sagardighi bypoll loss are signs of worry for the Trinamool Congress. Mamata Banerjee taking charge of the minority affairs department is a clear sign that she doesn’t want the minority support to slip.”
On March 17, while addressing a party meeting at her residence in Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee removed Haji Nurul Islam as the president of party’s minority cell and appointed first time MLA Mosaraf Hossain as its new chief. She had pulled up Haji Nurul Islam for not being able to strengthen the party’s minority base in recent times, according to reports.
(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)
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