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Ministers brace for Mamata test

Mamata Banerjee

Calcutta, Dec. 14: Ministers and bureaucrats in the Mamata Banerjee government are keeping their fingers crossed for December 20, when the chief minister will review their performance in the past three months.

Mamata started a “grade-awarding ceremony” after coming to power two years ago and is said to be very “keen” on the review meetings that, a minister close to her said,“help her keep tabs on the status of projects and identify problems”.

According to sources, ministers are burning the midnight oil, crunching numbers, clearing files and even memorising what they have done since the last review meeting in August.

Several ministers The Telegraph spoke to said they were wary of being caught on the wrong foot by the chief minister after the last meeting, where she had been extremely critical.

“At the meeting, she can ask any question to anybody. I am trying to keep myself thoroughly updated. Dekha jak ki hoy (let’s see what happens),” a minister said.

Mamata is known to haul up ministers and bureaucrats in the meetings if she is not satisfied with their performance. “In some cases, she has threatened to replace some bureaucrats,” an official said.

The December 20 meeting in Town Hall assumes significance as it is expected to be the last before the Lok Sabha elections.

Unlike the last few meetings, the chief minister has this time devised a structure to assess the performance of the departments. Questions were sent to all offices for ministers and bureaucrats to send in their replies.

“This is similar to exams in colleges and universities…. Question papers were sent and we submitted our replies. Now we will have to appear for a viva voce and the final results will be announced on Friday,” a senior bureaucrat said.

Officials said that at the meeting on December 20, Mamata wanted to have a ready reckoner on the progress made by the departments in each project, the funds utilised and problems, if any.

“She scolds in case she is unhappy. At the same time, she is generous with praise if she likes somebody’s work. If she is in the right mood, she also allows others to ask her questions. It works for young people like me who need guidance and encouragement,” the minister said.

According to sources at Nabanna, some departments are still in the process of preparing their status reports.

A senior official said “special focus” would be on the chief minister’s commitments like Kanyashree, 100 days’ work, tribal development and various welfare schemes like distribution of subsidised rice and Kisan Credit Cards.

“In the party and the government, her word is final. If she is unhappy with any minister’s performance, it becomes extremely difficult to get back into her good books,” a minister said.