After poll debacle, Mamata Banerjee rejigs cabinet to counter saffron surge in West Bengal

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Updated: May 29, 2019 7:56:53 AM

The Cabinet reshuffle and Bengal MLAs joining the BJP comes amid a stupendous performance of the saffron party in the state where it won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats. The TMC won 22 seats, 12 less than its 2014 tally of 34.

Mamata Banerjee cabinetWest Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reshuffles 43-member Cabinet after Lok Sabha debacle

Less than a week after Trinamool Congress received drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections and the BJP made historic gains, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday made major changes in her 43-member cabinet with her focus firmly on convincing the angry party leaders and strengthening the party base in north Bengal and Jangalmahal where her party didn’t get public support.

While Banerjee entrusted Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikary with two more departments of Irrigation and the Water Resources Investigation and Development (WRI&D), Somen Mahapatra, who was Minister for Water Resources Investigation & Development before the rejig, was shifted to Environment and Pollution and the Public Health Engineering Department (PHE). Adhikary was believed to be in close coordination with the BJP and to avoid any possible defection, Banerjee decided to give him the crucial Irrigation portfolio.

The civic polls in the state will be held in 2020, a year before the assembly polls and Banerjee is against taking any risk. On the other hand, after winning 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP is now eyeing to repeat the same performance in the civic polls which will set the stage for 2021 assembly polls. Banerjee who has been sitting at the helm of affairs in the state since 2011, is exploring all possibilities to counter the saffron surge in her state.

As a part of the reshuffle, Bratya Basu was given additional charge of the Forest Department along with his portfolio of the Science and Technology and Biotechnology Department. Minister for Fire Department Sujit Bose was made the Minister of State of the Forest Department. Backward Class Welfare Department in-charge Rajib Banerjee will also look after the SC, ST and the Tribal Affairs Department.

Malay Ghatak will now look after the Labour and Law department in the Mamata Banerjee government. Senior TMC leader Subrata Mukherjee was retained as Panchayat Minister. Subrata had lost to BJP’s Subhas Sarkar in the Bankura Lok Sabha seat.

Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Housing Chandrima Bhattacharyya was also given the additional responsibility as Minister of State for Panchayat Department. Former Forest Department Minister Binay Krishna Barman and Western Region Development Minister Shantiram Mahato were kept as ministers without any portfolio.

This comes on a day when three West Bengal MLAs, including BJP leader Mukul Roy’s son Subhrangshu Roy, and over 50 municipal councillors joined the BJP. The two other MLAs who joined the BJP are TMC’s Tusharkanti Bhattacharya and CPI(M)’s Debendra Nath Roy.

The Cabinet reshuffle and Bengal MLAs joining the BJP comes amid a stupendous performance of the saffron party in the state where it won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats. The TMC won 22 seats, 12 less than its 2014 tally of 34.

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