IN a rare move, Suranjit Sengupta on Monday resigned as the railways minister about four and half months into taking charge of the ministry following the railwaygate scandal.
The veteran Awami League leader will also stay away from politics until he comes “clear” through investigation, he said, terming it as a “halt” in his political career.
“I am resigning as railways minister taking responsibility of everything,” Suranjit said at a press briefing at the Rail Bhaban in the afternoon, referring to the controversy surrounding the recovery of huge stashes of cash from the car of his assistant personal secretary.
He however reiterated that he did not have any “direct or indirect” link with the money.
Earlier in the day, the embattled minister submitted the resignation letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
“I took the decision for the sake of fair investigation, and to set example acting beyond the existing practice and to uphold democracy,” he told a large crowd of journalists who gathered at the Rail Bhaban following hints that he might step down.
Suranjit expressed hope that the “truth” will come out through investigation.
His party – Awami League – or the government has nothing to do in this regard, Suranjit said, adding: “As the minister, all the responsibility of the ministry is mine.”
Earlier in the morning, Suranjit skipped the regular cabinet meeting.
Suranjit went to the railways ministry around 12:45pm by a vehicle carrying national flag.
But after resignation, the same vehicle without national flag carrying Suranjit left the ministry around 3:15pm for the minister’s Zigatola residence.
Before leaving, he held a farewell meeting with the officials and employees of his ministry and exchanged greeting with them.
The resignation came a day after his meeting with the prime minister, where sources said, he failed to satisfy the premier with explanations regarding his involvement with Tk 70 lakh from his APS’s cars, Omar Faruq, on April 9 night.
Suranjit took oath as minister on November 28 along with another Awami League stalwart Obaidul Quader. State Minister Hasan Mahmud also took oath as a full minister that day.
During the Sunday night meeting, Suranjit defended his position on the Tk 70 lakh seizure from Omar Faruq’s car, a source close to the PM said earlier.
But Hasina was not satisfied with Suranjit’s explanations during the 40-minute meeting that started at 9:00pm, according to sources.
Earlier, the Tk 70 lakh scandal came up for discussion at a meeting between Hasina and President Zillur Rahman at Bangabhaban Sunday evening, said the source.
On April 9 night, APS’s car driver Ali Azam suddenly entered the Border Guard Bangladesh headquarters in the capital and pulled up the vehicle near the main entrance sometimes later.
He shouted that there was illegal money inside the car, drawing the attention of the BGB men and leading to the detention of Suranjit Sengupta’s Assistant Personal Secretary Omar Faruq Talukder, Bangladesh Railway General Manager (East) Yusuf Ali Mridha and Railway’s Divisional Security Commandant Enamul Huq along with the driver.
They were however released on Tuesday on verification of their identities.
The recovery created sensation due to the identities of the persons who were inside the APS’s car and their statements that they were going to the minister’s residence.
In the wake of the criticism, APS Faruq was sacked and Mridha and Enamul were suspended on Sunday for their alleged involvement with the scandal.