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Shuffle in CM sight

Calcutta, Jan. 18: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee appears to have set in motion plans for a cabinet shuffle.

CPM officials said the changes, slated for this month end, would see the downsizing of Manab Mukherjee, who holds information technology and environment and could be parked in information and culture as a full minister.

“I cannot comment on a shuffle because it is the prerogative of the chief minister,” said Anil Biswas, the state CPM secretary.

But, in popular perception, nothing in the party moves without his knowledge or concurrence. “All I can say at this point is that our leaders, including the chief minister, would meet on January 22 to exchange opinions on the working of ministers. We are going to call the ministers to that meeting and take their views as well. We will get to know the leaders’ position, if any, only then,” he said.

“Nothing is going to happen on January 22,” said Mukherjee. “It (the meeting) is going to review our performance.”

But the officials said the leadership plans to inform the targeted ministers of the coming changes on January 22 itself. “They (the party) think IT is too important not to be in the hands of a mature and trusted party member.”

The buzz in the CPM is that the chief minister will handle IT, which underpins his vision for Bengal, assisted by Nirupam Sen, the industry minister who is one of his most trusted colleagues. It is also possible that IT will be put under Sen.

Environment, low in Mukherjee’s priorities, may be handed to Mohammed Salim, one of the CPM’s relatively young ministers.

It is not clear if Salim will continue to be in charge of the wide range of his current portfolios — minority affairs, technical education and youth services.

“We are going to meet on January 22 to look at various aspects of the working of the coalition and take certain decisions,” former chief minister Jyoti Basu said.

In 26 years, no Left Front government has attempted a mid-term shuffle.

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