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Ministers wait for shuffle stockings

Calcutta, Dec. 24: For countless children, the suspense will end tomorrow morning when they dip into Christmas stockings for gifts. For 42 grown-ups in Bengal, the agony will stretch for another 24 hours.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has lined up a ministry shuffle on Boxing Day, December 26.

The fate of all 42 ministers (besides the chief minister) is not on the block but such exercises are rarely free of an element of uncertainty. Today, soon after Mamata wished “Merry Christmas to all my brothers and sisters” through Facebook, many tried to speculate which minister will be dropped or shunted to soup up governance ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

The trigger was an invitation card from chief secretary Sanjay Mitra. “Shri M.K. Narayanan will administer the oath of office and secrecy to ministers of the government of West Bengal at 1.40pm on Thursday,” the invitation said.

The governor will also administer the oath of office and secrecy to Bimal Gurung as the chairman of the GTA Sabha on the same day.

According to sources in the government, the shuffle is expected to be “the biggest” since the change of guard in 2011. “Around 18 to 20 names are there on the list,” said a source.

“There will be some tinkering in terms of allotment of portfolios…. There is a possibility that some senior ministers may lose some departments,” said another source.

“Some new faces may also be inducted into the cabinet,” he added. The 44-minister limit means the government has space for another minister of state.

Everybody agreed that nothing could be said with certainty till Thursday noon. “The chief minister loves to spring surprises…. The list may be ready but it can be changed at the last moment,” said a Trinamul insider.

The government had shuffled the ministry six times but they were minor steps aimed at filling vacancies.

“This time it seems a bit different as it comes close on the heels of the chief minister’s assessment of the performance of the ministers,” said an official.


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