Mamata’s cabinet sworn in | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 11, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:56 PM, May 10, 2021

Mamata’s cabinet sworn in

A 43-member ministerial council, led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, was sworn in yesterday -- eight days after the Trinamool Congress stormed back into power for the third consecutive term following a landslide victory in the state assembly elections.

On the other hand, Mamata's former protégé and BJP leader Suvendhu Adhikari, who defeated her in Nandigram by less than 2,000 votes, was elected unanimously as the leader of the BJP legislature party today, paving the way for him in becoming the opposition in the state assembly and setting the stage for a faceoff in the House.

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The name of Suvendu, who joined the saffron party in December last year as the BJP legislature party, was proposed by Mukul Roy, another former Mamata confidante, who defected to BJP some years ago.

Soon after the swearing-in at the Raj Bhavan at 10:45 local time, Mamata distributed the portfolios retaining the Home, Health and Information and Cultural affairs to herself and allocating the Industry and Commerce to senior TMC leader Partha Chatterjee, who was the education minister in the previous government.

The School and Higher Education portfolio this time has gone to actor Bratya Basu.

Mamata's trusted lieutenant Firhad Hakim, the MLA from Kolkata Port Trust locality, with the key portfolio of Transport, once held by Suvendu. 

Amit Mitra, who did not contest the recent elections recently, citing ill health, has been retained in the cabinet with Finance portfolio.

As per the Indian constitution, Mitra will have to get elected in a by-election within six months, like Mamata, who lost in Nandigram.

In forming her new ministry, Mamata drafted in 16 new faces, including former cricketer Manoj Tiwari and ex-police officer Humayun Kabir. The 17 others included women and Muslims.

In the new ministerial council, comprising 24 cabinet ministers and 19 state ministers, Mamata has retained almost all the senior ministers in her previous government like Subrata Mukherjee, Partha Chatterjee, Firhad Hakim, Amit Mitra, Sobhandeb Chatterjee, Jyoti Priya Mallick, Moloy Ghatak, Aroop Biswas, Shashi Panja, Javed Ahmed Khan and Bratya Basu.

A notable absentee in the new ministry is that of Madan Mitra, who was Transport Minister in Mamata's 2011 government. Madan won this time from Kamarhati constituency after having lost there in 2016.

The unveiling of Mamata's new ministerial council came on a day when West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, upon a request made by the Central Bureau of Investigation, sanctioned the prosecution of four senior TMC leaders -- Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee -- in connection with purported Narada sting tapes that showed the TMC leaders allegedly accepting money in return for favours.

"The honourable governor is the competent authority to accord sanctions in terms of law as he happens to be the appointing authority for such ministers in terms of Article 164 of the constitution," a statement, issued by the officer on special duty (communication) at the Raj Bhavan, said on Sunday night.

The Narada sting tapes, made public before the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal, were claimed to have been shot in 2014 by a news portal.

Hakim, Mukherjee, Mitra and Chatterjee were ministers in the Mamata cabinet when the tapes were allegedly made in 2014.

All of them, with the exception on Chatterjee, have been re-elected as TMC MLAs in the just-concluded assembly elections, while Chatterjee, who left the TMC to join the BJP, has severed links with both the camps.

The Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the sting operation in March, 2017.

Besides Mamata, Shashi Panja is the only other woman member of the new cabinet.

Another veteran Manas Bhuniyan, who was a minister in Mamata's first cabinet in 2011, has been brought back this time following Trinamool Congress' impressive show in Purbo Medinipur district. Manas is a legislator from Sabang.

A prominent new face is Akhil Giri, district president of Purbo Medinipur where Nandigram is located, who has been included as a junior minister with independent charge for his loyalty in a region where Suvendu's defection to BJP had dealt Trinamool Congress a blow.

In Bengal's neighbouring Assam, astute strategist Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is credited with BJP's return to power in the state and the party's rise in north eastern region, today took his oath as Chief Minister, along with 13 other ministers.

Addressing his first press conference, 51-year-old Sarma appealed to fugitive United Liberation Front of Assam chief Paresh Baruah to come overground and join the peace process and demanded reverification of 20 percent of the names included in contentious NRC list in Assam's districts bordering Bangladesh and 10 percent of names in other areas.

The controversial final National Register of Citizens in Assam was published on August 31, 2019, by excluding 19.6 lakh people. A total of 3,11,21,004 names were included out of the 3,30,27,661 applicants.

 

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