West Bengal Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Laxmi Ratan Shukla resigned from his post on Tuesday, giving yet another blow to the ruling Trinamool Congress ahead of the state assembly elections early this year.
The cricketer-turned politician sent his resignation letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who accepted it and forwarded the letter to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
The governor accepted the resignation of Shukla from the state's council of ministers on the advice of the chief minister.
"Shri Laxmi Ratan Shukla ceases to be a member of the Council of Ministers with immediate effect," the governor said in an order.
The charge of the youth services and sports department will vest with Aroop Biswas as recommended by the chief minister, Dhankhar said in the order.
Aroop Biswas is the youth affairs and sports minister.
Shukla is the latest member of Banerjee cabinet to quit, giving a blow to the Trinamool Congress which is facing a stiff challenge from the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state polls.
Elections to the 294-member Bengal assembly is due in April-May this year.
Starting with former city mayor and minister Sovan Chatterjee's resignation in 2018, and Suvendu Adhikari this December, Shukla became the third minister to step down from the ministerial post in the Mamata Banerjee government.
In addition to the ministers,several TMC MLAs, including Shilbhadra Datta, Biswajeet Kundu, Dipali Biswas and Shukra Munda have also said goodbye to the ruling party.
Besides quitting the ministerial post, Shukla also gave up as president of Howrah Zilla Trinamool Congress (Sadar).
The 39-year-old former Team India pacer and Bengal cricket captain, however, retained his post as an MLA for Howrah (Uttar).
In a letter to TMC chairperson, Shukla stated that he was taking a break from politics as he wanted to concentrate more on cricket and the development of the sports.
"I am leaving politics for now. I shall be thankful, if you could kindly accept this letter as my resignation and release me from all my responsibilities as president – Howrah Zilla Trinamool Congress (sadar) and permit me to focus on my area of interest which is developing in Bengal," Shukla wrote in his letter to Banerjee.
"I will, however, continue to serve as MLA till the end of this term," he added.
Banerjee accepted Shukla's resignation and wished him good luck in the future.
"Laxmi can resign, it does not matter. He is a good boy. It’s okay that he left to rejoin cricket.
"In his letter he has not written of resigning from the ministry but has expressed his wish to retire from all forms of politics and concentrate on sports and give more time to it," Banerjee told reporters at the secretariat.
"He (Shukla) has asked to be relieved from all other responsibilities. So, I have recommended the governor to accept his resignation. I wish him good luck and there is no misunderstanding between us," she added.
There were no comments from Shukla on his resignation. Repeated phone calls to him went unanswered.
Sources close to Shukla, however, said that the former cricketer was disappointed over the kind of treatment he had to face from fellow leaders in the party.
"For a long time he is not happy with the attitude of other party colleagues. As a minister he was never given the chance to work properly and he has expressed his discomfort several times to us," one of his dear friends in the state cricket said on condition of anonymity.
Rivals BJP and Congress latched on Shukla's resignation to attack the TMC. They offered the cricketer-politician to join their party.
Reacting to Shukla's resignation, WBPCC President Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that party doors were open for the former cricketer as "the TMC was made on sand bundh. It is collapsing and Didi does not have the remedy to prevent it".
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader and Left legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty did not want to comment anything on the matter describing it as "an internal matter of the TMC".
BJP spokesman Samik Bhattacharya also said "if Shukla wanted to join his party, he is welcome".
"I am telling you Trinamool has no political ideology, no direction. It was established on anti-CPI-M plank which is no more relevant now. People at grassroots across Bengal are already aware of the fact that TMC's days are numbered. Just wait for some more time," he told reporters.
Incidentally, there is a buzz in the air about Shukla quiting TMC to join the saffron party.
Describing Shukla's decision as unfortunate, TMC MP Sougata Roy hoped that Shukla might reconsider his decision.
TMC spokesman Kunal Ghosh, however, said that Shukla quiting party would not have any impact on them.