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Post ‘shelter’ for 13

Calcutta, Jan. 24: Mamata Banerjee today administered oath of office to 13 parliamentary secretaries, the move apparently aimed at giving “political rehabilitation” to those Trinamul MLAs who could not be made ministers in the latest cabinet shuffle.

The secretaries, who would enjoy the rank and status of ministers of state, were appointed by Mamata to make room for more leaders in the government to put an end to growing factionalism and dissent in some quarters, the sources said.

“Some of them are senior, capable leaders who deserve ministerial berths while the others are influential leaders who had been lobbying hard for a place in the ministry. The post of parliamentary secretaries was created because the strength of the council of ministers can’t exceed 44,” a senior Trinamul leader said.

Sasi Panja, for instance, had been considered during two cabinet shuffles but she missed the bus narrowly both times. “Although Sasi wasn’t heard complaining, she was definitely not happy,” the minister said.

According to a leader, Tapas Roy and Ashoke Deb too were frontrunners for cabinet berths.

“While Tapas was beginning to show signs of discontent, the party had been wanting to induct Ashokeda. Ashokeda is a loyal, tireless worker,” the leader said.

Asked about the choice of leaders from north Bengal — Rabindranath Ghosh, Amal Acharya and Sandhyarani Tudu — a source pointed at efforts by the party to make inroads in the region.

The Trinamul sources said Nasiruddin Ahmed and A.T.M. Abdullah were made parliamentary secretaries to give the minority community more representation in the government.

The Trinamul sources said Asima Patra, Ashis Banerjee and Biplab Mitra were chosen because Mamata was “especially fond” of them.

“There is provision for 37 such secretaries,” a minister said.

Mamata said after a meeting with the secretaries: “This is 2013, so I appointed 13. I can appoint more later.”

Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra said the judiciary would “certainly” “knock down” the provision of making such appointments.

“Moreover, the supposedly cash-strapped state did not need this additional fiscal burden,” Mishra said.

A parliamentary secretary can earn at least Rs 38,000 a month, excluding perks.

PWD officials said they had not yet been instructed to make arrangements for offices for the 13.