Including Mamata Banerjee, there are nine women ministers in her third government, and 20 new ministers in all — seven of them from the minority community and four each from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. All 43 ministers were sworn in at the Raj Bhavan in Kolkata today in an abbreviated programme and, then, it was back to work for all.
Among newbies, batsman-turned-MLA Manoj Tiwari seemed overwhelmed by his new assignment as Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports. “I want to thank the people and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee,” he said, “for believing in me.”
Swearing-in done, the Chief Minister’s Office had the portfolios distributed by 2 pm to quickly turn the focus on Covid management.
Fresh signals of trouble, however, went up at Raj Bhavan. Governor Jagdeep Dhankar attacked the new government over post-poll violence yet again. He had raised the issue on May 5 after swearing the Chief Minister in.
“We are in a very deep crisis in this state. Post-poll retributive violence, acts of arson, and loot have now graduated to intimidation and extortion. This is worrisome. I, therefore, decided to visit the affected parts of the state as part of my constitutional duty. I indicated to the state government to make arrangements. Unfortunately, the response hasn’t been very responsive,” Mr Dhankar said, adding that he would make arrangements for his visit himself.
The BJP’s Nandigram MLA Suvendu Adhikari, who defeated Mamata Banerjee by less than 2,000 votes, was today appointed leader of the opposition. He, too, took pot-shots at the Chief Minister.
“This is the first time someone has become a Chief Minister without being elected,” he said, adding, “The weather classes going on in remote villages the way Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe people are being looted…this has to stop. We have to protect the 2.27 crore people who have voted for the BJP in the state.”
It is not yet clear if Ms Banerjee has been made aware of his comments or those of the Governor. But she addressed the post-poll violence issue and attacked the use of fake news to create trouble in the state.
“Nothing has happened in Bengal. There is calm in Bengal. Within 24 hours of the new government, they send a central team. Don’t they have minimum courtesy? A government has come to power with a landslide victory and a huge mandate. Law & order is a state subject. Why will a central team roam the state provoking agitation? And fake videos…They show fake videos to create trouble,” she said.
The continuing controversy did take the sheen somewhat off the new cabinet which returned portfolios to its most senior ministers, like finance to Dr Amit Mitra, Panchayat to Subrata Mukherjee, law to Malik Ghatak, consumer affairs and self-help groups to Sadhan Pande, and youth and sports to Arup Biswas, along with the power department.
Former power minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, who fought and won the polls from Bhawanipur, Ms Banerjee’s former constituency, has been given agriculture.
Partha Chatterjee lost education to Bratya Bose but was given charge of industry, commerce, and IT.
Jyotipriyo Mullick has been divested of food and civil supplies and given the relatively lightweight forest portfolio. Food has gone to Ratan Ghosh, who has become a minister for the first time.
Ms Banerjee has retained six portfolios — home, health, information and culture, land and land reforms, refugee rehabilitation, and North Bengal development.
There are nine ministers of state, 10 ministers of state with independent charges, and 24 full ministers.
Of the many film stars who contested and won the elections on Trinamool tickets, only one was named minister — Birbaha Hansda, superstar of Santhali cinema. She has been named minister of state for forests. She was one of the most prominent SC candidates the Trinamool fielded in the Assembly polls this time.