Trinamool Congress MP Prasun Banerjee, a footballer-turned-politician, has sparked a row by expressing surprise on why party colleague and Kamarhati MLA Madan Mitra was not considered for the West Bengal sports portfolio in recent rejig in the Mamata Banerjee cabinet.
Sharing a stage with Mitra at a party programme at Bally in Howrah district, Banerjee, the former Indian football captain, said he was surprised at the decision, as Mitra had been “the best sports minister” since the TMC came to power.
Mitra had been the sports and youth affairs and transport minister between 2011 and 2015 before being remanded to jail in connection with a chit fund scam.
In a video, which went viral on social media, Banerjee, the Howrah MP, is seen saying, “I don’t mind if my comments make anyone upset. To my knowledge, Madan Mitra was the best sports minister in the state cabinet. No idea why he had been overlooked in recent reshuffles despite being elected with people’s mandate.”
Mitra, standing beside Banerjee, seemed embarrassed but folded his hands as the audience clapped.
Reacting to Banerjee’s comments, TMC Rajya Sabha MP Santanu Sen said who will be included in the cabinet is the prerogative of the chief minister. “Let me say unequivocally, the CM has the authority to decide about the cabinet and portfolios in the best interest of the state,” he said.
BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said the MP’s comments point to an increasing rift within the TMC.
The Indian Express reported that TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said what Banerjee said was his personal opinion. “How to organise the cabinet, its dynamics, it is the privilege of the Chief Minister.”
Trinamool heavyweight Aroop Biswas is the incumbent sports minister, while cricketer-turned-politican Manoj Tiwary is the minister of state for sports in the state.
(With inputs from PTI)