Mamata shuffles around few ministers, retains key portfolios

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday unveiled her new council of ministers as 43 Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders were sworn in at a low-key ceremony in Raj Bhavan in Kolkata.

Banerjee retained key portfolios such as Home and Hill Affairs, Personnel and Administration, Health and Family Welfare, Land, Refugee and Rehabilitation, Information and Cultural Affairs, and North Bengal Development. She gave up the Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education Department to Mohammed Gulam Rabbani.

Of the 43 ministers, 24 are of the Cabinet rank, 10 are ministers of state with independent charge, and nine are ministers of state (MoS).

“We have inducted 16 new ministers in the Cabinet. There are nine women ministers [including Banerjee], seven ministers represent the minority community and four each are from the SC and ST communities,” Banerjee said after the oath-taking ceremony.

Amit Mitra, Bratya Basu, and Rathin Ghosh were sworn in virtually. While Mitra is unwell and suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), both Basu and Ghosh are recuperating from Covid-19.

Mitra remains the finance minister and will also head the Department of Planning and Statistics & Programme Monitoring. Among the other senior ministers, Subrata Mukherjee retained the Panchayat and Rural Development department, and was given the additional charge of Public Enterprises and Industrial Reconstruction while Firhad Hakim was appointed the Minister of Transport, and Housing. The MoS (Independent charge) for Health, Chandrima Bhattacharya, took over from him in the Urban Development and Municipal Affairs department.

Partha Chatterjee retained the Parliamentary Affairs department but was replaced as Minister of Education by Bratya Basu, who had the two portfolios that are the responsibility of the minister from 2011 to 2013.

Chatterjee, who is among the senior-most ministers in the government, will also head the departments of Information Technology and Electronics, and Industry, Commerce and Enterprise.

Mamata Banerjee appointed Rathin Ghosh, one of the new ministers, the Food and Supplies minister. His predecessor Jyotipriyo Mallick, during whose tenure the government faced a backlash over a ration scam, was appointed the new Minister of Forest. Mallick will also head the Non-Conventional and Renewable Energy Sources department. At the forest department, he will be assisted by Jhargram MLA and Santhali actor Birbaha Hansda.

Shashi Panja, the only one of the eight women ministers (excluding the chief minister) to get a Cabinet rank, will continue as the Minister for Women and Child Development and Social Welfare.

Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay was appointed the Minister of Agriculture while his Power portfolio was handed over to Minister of Sports Aroop Biswas as an additional charge. Biswas was the sports minister in the previous tenure too. This time, he will be assisted by former India cricketer and MoS Manoj Tiwari.

BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari’s detractor and TMC Purba Medinipur district president Akhil Giri, who is another big name among the 16 new ministers, was made MoS for Fisheries (Independent charge). Former IPS officer Humayun Kabir, who gave up his career in the police to join politics and win from Debra, was placed in charge of the Department of Technical Education, Training, and Skill Development.

The chief minister appointed senior North Bengal leader Biplab Mitra — another big name among the debutant ministers — at the helm of the Agricultural Marketing department. Senior leader Manas Bhunia, who was a minister in the TMC-Congress government that came to power in 2011, was placed in charge of Water Resources Investigation and Development. The Irrigation and Waterways department went to Soumen Kumar Mahapatra.

Sadhan Pande was retained as the Minister of Consumer Affairs & Self Help Group and Self Employment while Asansol Uttar MLA Moloy Ghatak retained the Law and Judicial department while taking over the Public Works department from Aroop Biswas. His Labour portfolio was handed over to MoS (Independent charge) Becharam Manna.

Among the other notable names, Bankim Chandra Hazra was given the Sundarbans Affairs department while Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Textiles went to Chandranath Sinha. Salboni MLA Srikant Mahato is the MoS for MSME and Textile.

Mamata Banerjee kept Sujit Bose at the helm of the fire department while Indranil Sen will continue as tourism minister. Sen will also continue to be an MoS for information and cultural affairs.

Pandua MLA Ratna De Nag was placed in charge of the departments of environment, and science and technology and biotechnology. Manbazar MLA Sandhyarani Tudu was made the MoS (Independent charge) of Paschimanchal Unnayan Affairs. She will also be the junior minister in the Parliamentary Affairs department.

Bulu Chik Baraik, the MLA from Malbazar in north Bengal, was appointed MoS (independent charge) for the backward classes welfare and tribal development department.

Keshpur MLA Seuli Saha is the new MoS of Panchyat and Rural Development while Akhruzzaman, the Raghunathganj MLA, will be the MoS for Power. Mekhliganj MLA Paresh Chandra Adhikary was named the MoS for School Education while Mothabhari legislator Sabina Yasmin will assist Soumen Mahapatra at the Irrigation and Waterways department. As an MoS, Yasmin will also look after the department of North Bengal Development.

While Ranibandh MLA Jyotsna Mandi was named the MoS for Food and Supplies Bishnupur MLA Dilip Mondal is MoS Transport.

Later in the day, the chief minister announced that Nirmal Ghosh and Tapas Roy would be the TMC’s chief whip and deputy chief whip in the Assembly. Ashish Banerjee will be the deputy speaker.

— With PTI Inputs