The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll result key to Mamata portfolio

New Delhi, Dec. 2: Atal Bihari Vajpayee today introduced Union minister Mamata Banerjee to the Lok Sabha, amid jeers from Left MPs and cheers from National Democratic Alliance members.

The Trinamul Congress chief and minister without portfolio was sworn in minister on September 8 along with MDMK leader Gingee Ramachandran.

Mamata had to put up with jibes from Left members on her first day in Parliament after being reinducted into the Union cabinet. When the Prime Minister introduced her to Parliament as soon as it convened, some Left MPs asked her which ministry she was going to be allotted. The treasury benches came to her rescue, thumping their desks to welcome the new minister.

Vajpayee also introduced Ramachandran, Union minister of state for textiles. The leader had to resign last May after his personal assistant, R. Perumalswamy, was caught taking a bribe.

The Lok Sabha was adjourned immediately afterwards as a mark of respect for former Union minister Murasoli Maran and Karnataka BJP leader Mallikarjunappa. Maran died on November 23 after a prolonged illness and Mallikarjunappa last week.

Mamata would not speak to reporters about which ministry she might be allotted. Rumours have it that the Trinamul chief may have to wait longer to get a ministry of her choice. The Bengal leader met the Prime Minister on Sunday night, but it is not known what transpired.

NDA sources say Vajpayee may shortlist a portfolio for her after Assembly election results are announced on Thursday.

Mamata was earlier offered the coal ministry, but she insisted that the ministry of mines, being handled by Chhattisgarh BJP MP Ramesh Bais, be clubbed with the coal portfolio.

The BJP remained noncommittal as it wanted to wait for the election outcome in Chhattisgarh. If the BJP wins there, Bais could be anointed chief minister, thus making way for Banerjee.

The coal ministry is headed by Jharkhand BJP member Karia Munda. The MP has come under a cloud following media reports that he is among the six ministers who alleged “milked” public sector undertakings. Central vigilance commissioner P. Shanker met Vajpayee on October 16, to complain at how the public units are being milked.

Other ministries under the CVC scanner include power and heavy industries, held by Shiv Sena ministers Anant Geete and Subodh Mohite respectively, and steel held by Biju Janata Dal’s Brij Kishore Tripathy.

There is speculation that Vajpayee could shunt these ministers when he reshuffles the Cabinet and offer one of these portfolios to Mamata.

The Trinamul leader was expected to get a look-in during last July’s cabinet expansion, but was thwarted at the final hour.

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