Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee — days after sacking her right-hand man, minister Partha Chatterjee — effected what was billed as her biggest cabinet expansion since coming to power in 2011. The biggest name among the five newcomers is Babul Supriyo — a former Union minister of the BJP who joined the Trinamool Congress last year and has been rewarded with a cabinet berth.
The ministers took oath this afternoon, days after the arrest of the Chief Minister’s closest aide Partha Chatterjee in an alleged money laundering case. Piles of cash were recovered from the two properties belonging to his aide, Arpita Mukherjee, making the government the target of much criticism.
Babul Supriyo was allotted the departments of Information Technology, Electronics an Tourism. The other four new cabinet ministers — Snehashish Chakraborty, Partha Bhowmik, Udayan Guha and Pradip Majumder were also allotted key ministries.
Snehashish Chakraborty, the party’s state spokesperson who handled the party unit in Hooghly district, has been allotted the transport department.
Partha Bhowmik — three-term MLA from the Naihati Assembly seat — will be in charge of the Irrigation and waterways ministry. Udayan Guha — a Forward Bloc leader who joined the Trinamool in 2016 — will be looking after North Bengal development.
The four junior ministers appointed include Birbaha Hansda, Biplab Roy Chowdhury, Tajmul Hossain and Satyajit Burman.
Birbaha Hansda, a tribal leader, and Biplab Roy Chowdhury will have independent charge — of self-employment and fisheries.
Partha Chatterjee, relieved of ministerial duties after his arrest, was in charge of five key departments including industry, commerce and enterprises and parliamentary affairs.
But while announcing the expansion yesterday, Mamata Banerjee said the number of districts in the state has also increased from 23 to 30, generating a bigger workload.
“We lost ministers Subrata Mukherjee, Sadhan Pande. Partha is in jail so all their work has to be done. Not possible for me to handle alone,” she had said.
On Monday, Ms Banerjee had carried out a major overhaul within the party, changing the leadership of 16 of the 35 organisational districts. Several “non-performers” were axed, and some were relieved of organisational duties.