The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Big Brother eyes allies’ berths

Calcutta, May 11: Having secured absolute majority in the Assembly, the CPM is considering taking over certain “heavy duty” ministries off its Left Front allies’ hands.

One of them is the agriculture ministry, held so far by Forward Bloc’s Kamal Guha who didn’t contest this time. The Bloc might be asked at tomorrow’s front meeting to part with the portfolio, CPM sources said.

“Since Buddhadebbabu’s planned big-ticket industrialisation will require conversion of certain categories of agricultural land, the CPM will like to exercise control on the department of agriculture,” a source said.

He added the Bloc would be offered an equally important ministry in exchange.

Friday’s front meeting, however, may witness some bitterness as the Bloc and other allies are expected to resist the CPM’s attempts to take away ministries from them.

“We, as a constituent of the government, are equally responsible for the execution of the industrialisation drive,” said a Bloc official. “So there is no question of giving the ministry up.”

Guha had on several occasions criticised chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s plans to involve private companies in farming. He had resisted the allotment of land to multinationals like the Salim group to set up townships and highways.

The CPM sources said the party needs to take over certain important ministries if Bhattacharjee’s planned economic reforms are to be successfully carried out.

“Our leadership thinks a common thread should run through ministries like commerce and industry, agriculture, environment, information technology and the like,” an official said.

The CPM reportedly has plans to “infuse momentum” into ministries like urban development, transport, and information technology and environment.

“Our intention is to make urban development and transport more responsive to popular needs,” a source said.

Information technology and environment may be de-merged and placed under separate ministers.

The unexpected defeat of labour minister Mohammed Amin has landed the party in a fix. Bhattacharjee is apparently keen to find a replacement who is clued in to the planned labour reforms, will be comfortable handling the unions and is conversant with the complex body of labour laws.

Among new faces being considered for ministers’ posts are Debesh Das, Abdus Sattar, Anjan Bera and Tamalika Panda Seth.

Apart from Jyoti Basu, all CPM politburo members from Bengal ' Bhattacharjee, Biman Bose and Chittabrata Majumdar ' will leave for Delhi tomorrow evening. They will attend Saturday’s politburo meeting which will mainly discuss Kerala but also formally endorse Bhattacharjee as the next Bengal chief minister.

After tomorrow’s front meeting, the CPM’s state secretariat will sit down to discuss its outcome as well as the composition of the new ministry in general.

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