All-inclusive team hits berth ceiling Trinamul fills its quota, 7 for Cong

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 20.05.11
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Calcutta, May 19: Mamata Banerjee will start her innings as chief minister with a full-strength ministry, accommodating all the interest groups within the party and from across the state.

From Muslims to women to the Scheduled Castes to giant-killers, Mamata has included the sections she has been wooing assiduously for the past few years.

The new government will have 44 ministers, including Mamata, the maximum permissible number and one that equals the strength of the Left Front government.

The Trinamul Congress will take 37 berths, setting aside seven for the Congress. The Congress is likely to take a couple of days to fill its slots unless it irons out internal wrinkles before the swearing-in tomorrow.

The portfolios will be announced later. Mamata had earlier this week said she would initially go in for a small cabinet and add more ministers later, underscoring the need to include members from the minority community, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.

But Mamata has opted for a full-fledged ministry right from the word go, perhaps because of the political pulls and pressures over the past few days or because she could strike the balance she had been looking for to accommodate all sections.

Six members of the ministry are from the minority communities and five from the reserved categories. Her trusted lieutenants Firhad Hakim and Javed Khan have been allotted slots in the ministry along with Abdul Karim Chowdhury, H.A. Safwi and Justice Noor-e-Alam Chowdhury.

In her election campaign, Mamata had promised an “all-inclusive cabinet”. The list of Trinamul ministers reveals that Mamata has kept her word, including at least one minister from each district except Jalpaiguri, which is expected to be represented by a Congress minister.

North 24-Parganas, which has the highest number of Assembly seats, tops the districts with seven ministers. The district, from where Trinamul has wiped out the Left since the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, is followed by Calcutta and South 24-Parganas, with four each.

North Bengal, where Mamata’s tally has jumped to 16 seats from one in 2006, has been rewarded with ministers from Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda. Gautam Deb, the Trinamul Darjeeling district president instrumental in building the support base, was not ignored when Mamata drew up the list of ministers.

Apart from Mamata, the only other woman from Trinamul to make it to the ministry is Malda district president Sabitri Mitra. Having switched sides from the Congress to Trinamul a year ago, Sabitri, once a Ghani Khan Chowdhury loyalist, has been rewarded. She is the lone Trinamul candidate to have won from the district.

“A lot of effort went into creating a strong base in north Bengal, where the party was far behind the Left and the Congress. Out of the 26 seats we contested, we have emerged victorious in 16. Moreover, Mamata has big plans for the region. She needs ministers from these districts to implement the plans,” said a senior Trinamul leader.

The inclusion of Murshidabad president Subrata Saha in the cabinet will help Mamata take the development bandwagon to the district, where Congress strongman Adhir Chowdhury still calls the shots.

If identity politics played a big role in Mamata’s ride to Writers’, the list reflects that. Manjulkrishna Thakur, a leader from the Matua community, has found a place in the ministry.

Jungle Mahal, which gave Mamata seven of the 14 MLAs in the area, has got two ministers, reflecting her resolve to take development to the backward region.

Purnendu Bose, who has been with Mamata since the Singur and Nandigram days, has been accommodated.

Giant-killers like Amit Mitra, Manish Gupta, Rabiranjan Chatterjee and Bratya Basu have been given berths.

In her hour of triumph, Mamata has retained her faith in loyalists like Subrata Bakshi, Partha Chatterjee, Rabindranath Bhattacharjee, Jyotipriya Mullick, Madan Mitra and Malay Ghatak.