Deepa Das Munshi takes charge as the minister of state for urban development in New Delhi on Monday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
Courtesy call on party chief. Drive down to ministry to take over. Lunch at the Prime Minister’s home. Back in ministry for meeting.
Who said ministers of state don’t have much to do?
Raiganj MP Deepa Das Munshi marked a busy first day as junior central minister and also made her intentions clear: she was here to work.
“It depends on person to person whether they want to work or not. Mine is the only constituency in which the entire MPLAD (area development) funds have been spent. And I am sure I will be able to work as a minister of state too,” Deepa, one of the three Bengal MPs appointed junior central ministers in yesterday’s shuffle, said.
The last bit was aimed at the man she succeeded in the urban development ministry, Trinamul MP Saugata Roy, who had yesterday said “ministers of state don’t have much to do”.
Deepa, one of Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee’s most vocal critics, hit back today. “There were six ministers of state from Trinamul. They claim they had no work. Maybe, that is the reason they were seen running across Bengal in their red-beacon cars.”
Even her staff seemed to know what their boss wanted: the first thing they did this morning was to remove a photograph of Mamata that hung between the portraits of the Prime Minister and the President on the wall behind the minister’s chair.
The first thing the minister did, even before taking over, was visit Sonia Gandhi. Deepa gifted her party chief a sari.
After the courtesy call, she attended a lunch Manmohan Singh hosted at his residence for Bangladesh Opposition leader Khaleda Zia.
Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, another new minister from Bengal, had also been invited to the lunch where rising prices of hilsa dominated the discussions. “I complained to Begum Zia that we are not getting good hilsa in Calcutta or here in Delhi. Bangladesh is exporting hilsa to other countries instead of us. I lodged my protest against it,” she smiled.
By 4 in the afternoon, she was back in her ministry at Nirman Bhavan. She had a brief meeting with urban development secretary Sudhir Krishna and asked him to submit a report on Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) funds spent on Bengal.
“The Bengal government has purchased buses using JNNURM funds, but these buses are lying in the garage. The private contractors to whom these buses have been leased are selling them,” she said.
Had she been rewarded for being a Mamata-baiter?
Deepa, dressed in a crisp white cotton sari with a golden border and matching costume jewellery, appeared to be expecting it. “I am not against Mamata Banerjee but her policies…. My responsibility is towards my people. So I will criticise anyone who works against them,” she said.