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Cabinet chop ends with CPM sacrifice

Calcutta, June 2: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s cabinet has been right-sized.

The chief minister today announced that two CPM ministers — Dhiren Sen and Anju Kar — would be sacrificed to implement an amendment to the people’s representation act that stipulates that the strength of a ministry cannot exceed 15 per cent of the Assembly’s.

Yesterday, the Forward Bloc’s Kalimuddin Shams, the minister for food and civil supplies, and the RSP’s Amalendra Roy, minister for irrigation and waterways, stepped down.

Earlier, Mohammad Selim, minister for minorities’ affairs, quit after being elected to the Lok Sabha.

“The Left Front has discussed the matter and suggested the names today, and they are being sent to the governor for his approval,” Bhattacharjee said. “Though constitutionally I am the one to decide the names, we do it together with our partners and go by the decision of the front.”

Party sources said the front was initially in favour of dropping CPM ministers of state Susanta Ghosh and Narayan Biswas, but decided on Sen and Kar after a second round of discussion.

Sen was keen to relinquish his post on health grounds. Kar was dropped to reduce the number of ministers from Burdwan district.

With Kar out of the government, Burdwan will still have four ministers — Nirupam Sen, Mrinal Banerjee, Bansagopal Chowdhury and Nisith Adhikary.

Asked why Sen was dropped as it would mean no ministerial representation from Birbhum, Bhattacharjee said: “The selection process might have left many districts bereft of a minister, but we have to keep in mind the question of age and health of the ministers.” Sen and Shams are both ailing and have not been attending office regularly.

The decision to drop Kar was taken despite pressure from the Paschimbanga Ganatantrik Mahila Samity, the CPM’s women’s wing.

The portfolios of Sen, minister of state for panchayat and rural development, and Kar, minister of state for municipal affairs, need not be offered to others as Surjya Kanta Mishra and Asok Bhattacharya are already in charge of the departments.

The chief minister mentioned that the remaining departments — vacated by the other ministers — would be offered to other ministers. “The Left Front has offered its advice. However, I will decide and say that in a day or two,” he said.

After the front meeting, chairman Biman Bose said the CPM will contest the Rajya Sabha seat from Bengal which fell vacant after defence minister Pranab Mukherjee’s victory from Jangipur Lok Sabha constituency. Mukherjee was elected to the upper House from Bengal in 1999.

“This time, we have decided to contest the vacant seat of Mukherjee,” Bose told reporters this afternoon. Elections to the Rajya Sabha will be held on June 21, he added.

CPM insiders said the name of Chittabrata Majumdar, party central committee member and Citu general secretary, was doing the rounds as a possible candidate.

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