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New faces likely in reshuffle

Dec. 25: Two new faces are likely to join Mamata Banerjee’s ministry and a minister of state is expected to be given independent charge during tomorrow’s reshuffle, according to a release on the Trinamul website that attributed the information to “sources”.

The release, the first such statement since Trinamul came to power, mentions that Shashi Panja, the MLA of Shyampukur in north Calcutta, “will be inducted into the Council of Ministers; she will take the oath at Raj Bhavan as a Minister with Independent charge, according to sources”. Panja’s portfolio was not mentioned.

Binay Burman, the MLA of Mathabhanga in Cooch Behar, will replace Hiten Burman as the forest minister. According to the release, Sitalkuchi MLA Hiten Burman had tendered his resignation as minister to Mamata “citing health issues and illness”.

Binay Burman told The Telegraph this evening: “I got a call from the chief secretary’s office this evening asking me to be present at Raj Bhavan tomorrow for the swearing-in.”

The release says Swapan Debnath, the minister of state for micro and small-scale enterprises and textiles, will get independent charge.

With the changes, the number of Bengal ministers, including the chief minister, will rise to 44, the maximum the state can have.

“The release mentions the names of three MLAs who will be administered the oath tomorrow. But there could be re-allotment of departments among the existing ministers. For that, they will not have to take oath,” a source said.

The lack of clarity on the re-allotment of portfolios and Mamata’s assessment of ministers last week have sparked speculation in Trinamul on the nature and extent of the reshuffle.

“If the reshuffle is based on performance, it is likely that a section of senior ministers may lose some of the departments under them,” a source said, adding that the primary aim of the reshuffle was to improve the efficiency of the government.

“The Lok Sabha polls are just a few months away and the chief minister wants her ministers to deliver,” he added.

Some Trinamul leaders said though there was a buzz that some MLAs who had defected to the party recently could find place in the ministry, they were unlikely to be inducted tomorrow.

The list of minister hopefuls includes Ajoy De and Soumitra Khan, who switched to Trinamul from the Congress, and Chand Mohammad, who defected from the Samajwadi Party. “They may be considered later,” the source said.