Calcutta, May 21: The preoccupation with the polls over, the government has revived plans to downsize the ministry.
But the government is already one minister less. Minorities development, youth services and technical education minister Mohammad Salim is now the CPM Lok Sabha member from Calcutta Northeast.
The chief minister is likely to take additional charge of Salim’s department.
The CPM today empowered Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to make the necessary changes to the cabinet.
The size of the cabinet will have to be scaled down by July 26. There are 47 members in Bhattacharjee’s cabinet after Salim put in his papers this afternoon. It should be 43, according to a Delhi directive that asked state governments to restrict the size of ministries to 15 per cent of the total strength of the Assembly.
There are 294 legislators in the Bengal Assembly and four more ministers have to be axed to comply with the directive.
The CPM’s euphoria over the twin triumphs of Salim and Jorabagan MLA Sudhangshu Seal, who won from Calcutta Northwest, gave way to concern over whom to nominate for the seats they vacated.
Today, the party appeared to have zeroed in on its choice. It is likely to field Mohammad Nizamuddin from Entally, which Salim represented.
For Jorabagan, former Calcutta Municipal Corporation councillor Krishna Sarkar is being considered. Sarkar is said to be close to Seal and the front-runner in the race for the ticket.
Nizamuddin, a Citu leader, had represented Entally in the Assembly earlier and reportedly antagonised Jyoti Basu in 1996 when the government carried out Operation Sunshine — the drive against encroachment of city streets and pavements by hawkers.
The CPM is said to have worked out a formula for downsizing of the cabinet. Bhattacharjee has completed discussions with the Forward Bloc and the RSP over the exercise.
Sources said at least two members of the cabinet from the chief minister’s own party are likely to be dropped. The duo could be from among Iva Dey, Anju Kar, Nayan Sarkar and Susanta Ghosh. But Bhattacharjee has not taken a decision yet.
RSP minister Ganesh Mandal is apparently facing the axe.
No CPI minister’s chair is under threat. In all probability, Nandagopal Bhattacharya and Sreekumar Mukherjee will retain their berths in the remodelled cabinet.
Bloc ministers Naren De and Kalimuddin Shams might exchange portfolios. Shams, the food and supplies minister, is ill and not in a position to handle a vital department. De, the cooperation minister, may move over to his department.
The sources said CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury attended a meeting of the party’s state secretariat at the Alimuddin Street headquarters and briefed the state leadership on the common minimum programme drafted by Prime Minister-designate Manmohan Singh. He also analysed the scenario that compelled the party brass to not join the Congress-led coalition government in Delhi.