Playback singer-turned-politician Babul Supriyo left the BJP in a huff after being dropped from the Union cabinet two years ago and joined the Trinamool Congress.
But he now faces marginalisation in the Trinamool as well. That’s because, say senior Trinamool leaders, his performance as a minister has been much below par.
In her latest cabinet reshuffle, chief minister Mamata Banerjee divested Supriyo of the tourism portfolio and gave him charge of the Information Technology & Electronics and the non-conventional and renewable energy departments.
Tourism is a major focus area of the current state government and close to Mamata Banerjee’s heart. The removal of Babul Supriyo from the tourism department amounts to an expression of ‘no-confidence’ on his abilities by Mamata Banerjee.
The IT & Electronics department is run primarily by powerful bureaucrats who report directly to the chief minister. The main focus of the department is to attract investments in the IT sector and facilitate the operation of IT companies who set up shop in the state.
“Since that job is done wholly by some IAS officers, the minister doesn’t have much to do. In this present government, the post of IT Minister is not important since the department is run by powerful bureaucrats who take all major decisions with the direct concurrence of the chief minister,” said a senior IAS officer.
The other department that Babul Supriyo has been put in charge of--non-conventional and renewable energy--is also an unimportant one. That’s because all major initiatives and policy decisions in this sector are taken by the Union Government and states have little role to play.
Here, too, the department is actually run by the CMO (Chief Minister’s Office) through two top bureaucrats of the department.
Mamata Banerjee, said a senior cabinet minister who is close to her, has been unhappy with Babul Supriyo’s functioning for quite a while. “She gave him more than a year to show results as the tourism minister. She even hauled him up on several occasions for non-performance. He has not shown any initiative and is a poor performer,” said the minister.
To make matters worse, Babul Supriyo is known to rub his cabinet colleagues as well as some senior officers of his (tourism) department the wrong way.
A few Ministers and bureaucrats who spoke to Swarajya said that complaints against Babul Supriyo had been piling up. He has been accused of hampering the smooth functioning of the (tourism) department and stopping his officers from taking many initiatives.
“He did not take any initiative and whenever his non-implementable suggestions were turned down, he used to get adversarial and misbehave with officers. His ideas were vague and not practical and he has a massive ego which prevented him from accepting suggestions,” said an officer.
That is why Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee shunted him to the departments where he won’t have much work.
The Chief Minister was also reportedly upset with Babul Supriyo for crossing swords with his ministerial colleague Indranil Sen. Sen, also a singer, is very close to Banerjee and was the tourism minister till the Chief Minister gave the portfolio to Babul Supriyo in August last year.
Sen, who was an effective tourism minister, had tried to offer suggestions a few times to Supriyo, but the latter reacted angrily and asked Sen to stay out of the affairs of his (tourism) department.
Banerjee took strong exception to Supriyo’s behaviour and performance. She was also upset that despite many promptings and warnings about his performance, he failed to pull up his socks and get his act together.
But what Mamata Banerjee has discovered only recently about Babul Supriyo was observed by Prime Minister Modi many years ago.
After Babul Supriyo won the Asansol Lok Sabha seat in 2014, Modi kept his promise to the people of that constituency and made Supriyo, who was a greenhorn in politics, Minister of State for Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation.
While addressing an election rally in Asansol, Modi had promised the people there that if they elect Babul Supriyo, he will make their MP a minister.
Those ministries are priority areas for PM Modi and it was quite unusual for a novice with zero experience in administrative matters to be appointed even a Minister of State in those ministries.
But Modi gave Supriyo a chance, and he frittered that away. It is learnt that Modi and some senior cabinet ministers tried to guide Supriyo, but he could not deliver. That is why he was shifted to the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises as Minister of State in July 2016.
The MoS in the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises does not have much work, but a person with initiative can still do good work there. And it offers a chance to good performers to get noticed. In that sense, PM Modi gave Supriyo a second chance.
But once again, Supriyo failed to perform. His performance, say those in the know, was much below average. Also, by that time, he had developed a massive ego and had started assuming that he was an expert in many matters.
Supriyo started clashing quite often with senior officers of that Ministry and even with some of his cabinet colleagues. But Modi let him continue till the end of the first term of his government in 2019.
Babul Supriyo was re-elected from Asansol in 2019 and to the surprise of many, was once again inducted into the Union Council of Ministers and MoS in the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change.
By that time, a lot was happening in that Ministry and Prakash Javadekar, the cabinet minister, was performing as per the mandate given to him by PM Modi. But Supriyo reportedly could not get along with Javadekar because of his ego. He also reportedly failed to perform.
Ultimately, the Prime Minister sacked Supriyo in July 2021. Apart from his poor performance as a Union Minister, another reason for Supriyo’s sacking was that he had failed to work hard to ensure the victory of BJP candidates from constituencies he had been placed in charge of.
Also, Babul Supriyo had gotten too used to the trappings of power and was more interested in enjoying the perks of being a Union Minister than putting in hard work.
Three weeks after being sacked, Babul Supriyo announced his resignation from the BJP and said he would be quitting politics.
But he responded positively to overtures from the Trinamool and joined the party in early August 2021.
After senior cabinet minister and veteran Trinamool leader Subrata Mukherjee died in November 2021, Mamata Banerjee asked Supriyo to contest from Mukherjee’s Ballygunge seat in the bypolls held the next year.
Supriyo bagged the seat and Mamata Banerjee inducted him into her cabinet as Tourism Minister in August last year.
Supriyo had replaced Indranil Sen, who was given charge of technical education, training and skill development as well as the information and cultural affairs department.
Sen, who was brought back to the tourism department Monday (September 11), was effusive in his praise of Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek.
Babul Supriyo also put up a brave face and : “In a party where you can express yourself to your supremo, you can happily & sincerely & work with ‘Renewed Energy’ in any New Ministry and that is 'New & Renewable Energy Ministry', it can't get better. My sincere gratitude to her for bestowing faith upon me in another very futuristic ministry of the modern world, apart from the IT & Electronics Ministry.
Very importantly, having worked as a minister in Ministry of Environment & Climate Change in the Central Govt., I can bring in all the experience I had gathered therein, having attended & interacted with great minds in this very sector of New Power.
Being able to work with Peace & Solitude is of supreme importance & it increases one’s efficiency in his area of work. Thanks once again to Hon’ble Didi & our National Gen. Sec. Shri. Abhishek Banerjee for the opportunity”.
Other Trinamool leaders view this post as a face-saver by Supriyo who, everyone knows, has been stripped of an important portfolio.
Trinamool leaders told Swarajya that Chief Minister Banerjee will be watching Babul Supriyo’s performance closely. He has been reportedly warned against taking things lightly and getting adversarial with senior officers.
This is Babul Supriyo’s last chance; if he continues with his old ways and fails to deliver now, he will surely be sacked.
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