Trinamool Congress leader Rajib Banerjee on Friday resigned from the post of West Bengal Forest Minister. His resignation is the latest among a string of exits from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Cabinet.

Rajib Banerjee is the second minister from Howrah district, and the third state minister to resign ahead of the West Bengal Assembly elections.

“I regret to inform you that I hereby tender my resignation from my Office as Cabinet Minister being in charge of Forest Department on today, i.e. 22nd January of 2021,” Rajib Banerjee said in his letter to the chief minister. “It has been a great honour and a privilege to serve the people of West Bengal. I heartily convey my gratitude for getting this opportunity.”

The former forest minister said he was hurt after being personally attacked, and hence resigned from the post, reported PTI. However, he said he was grateful to Mamata Banerjee for her guidance during his political career. “It pains me and breaks my heart but I had to do it,” he told ANI. “I reiterate my commitment towards working for the people of Bengal.”

Rajib Banerjee had earlier expressed his dissatisfaction with a section of leaders from the party, according to NDTV. He had also not attended five consecutive meetings of the West Bengal Cabinet and over a dozen events of the Trinamool Congress since September. He also voiced his dissent against a section of the leadership in Howrah district around the same time, according to Hindustan Times.

During a Facebook Live, he had insisted that “corrective steps” need to be taken to bridge the gap between the party and the people of the state.

“Quite like my party supremo [Mamata Banerjee], I believe in giving respect to ordinary grassroot workers who toil hard for the organisation selflessly,” Rajib Banerjee said. “However, if I see that these workers are not getting their due respect...if they are frustrated and pained, I try to communicate their sentiments to the top leadership.” He had also alleged that some party leaders were carrying out propaganda against him.

Meanwhile, BJP’s Barrackpore Lok Sabha member and a former TMC leader Arjun Singh said Rajib Banerjee would be welcomed into his party if he planned to join it. “More legislators and leaders will leave the TMC,” said Singh, reported Hindustan Times.

However, TMC MP Saugata Roy said Rajib Banerjee’s exit will not make any difference to the party, adding that it will only make the party more consolidated.

Political turmoil began for the TMC after former state minister and a close associate of Banerjee, Suvendu Adhikari, quit the party in December. After a long drawn period of public dissatisfaction with the ruling Trinamool Congress, Adhikari joined the BJP during Shah’s two-day visit to West Bengal on December 19. Earlier, he resigned from all the positions he held in the Trinamool Congress on December 17. This came a day after he resigned as a member of the Legislative Assembly and almost 20 days after he resigned as West Bengal transport minister. He had quit from the post of chairperson of the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners too.

Besides Adhikari, six MLAs of the TMC, one each from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India and the Congress also joined the BJP. Two-time TMC MP from Bardhaman Purba Lok Sabha constituency Sunil Mondal also defected to the BJP.

On January 5, West Bengal Minister of State for Youth Services and Sports Laxmi Ratan Shukla had resigned from his post. He will, however, continue as an MLA.