In a major reshuffle in the State’s Council of Ministers of the eighteen month-old- Trinamool Congress government here on Wednesday, eight new faces were inducted in the Ministry while the portfolio of eight existing Cabinet Ministers were changed and one Minister of State dropped.
The Governor M K Narayanan administered the oath of office and secrecy to 13 ministers who included five existing ministers at a ceremony in Raj Bhavan.
The reshuffle was made with an eye on the upcoming rural elections in the State with the Trinamool Congress government bringing in new faces elected predominantly from the rural constituencies, political circles believe.
While six of new Ministers are Trinamool Congress MLAs, two former Congress MLAs who recently joined Trinamool Congress were also inducted in the State Council of Ministers. One was made a cabinet Minister, given charge of the Tourism portfolio, the other a Minister of State for Animal Resource Development.
A number of slots in the State Council of Ministers had fallen vacant after six Congress Ministers resigned on September 22, after the Trinamool Congress withdrew its support from the Congress- led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre.
Four Ministers of State (MoS) with independent charge -Madan Mitra, Arup Biswas, Subrata Saha, Manjul Krishna Thakur - were upgraded to the rank of a Cabinet Minister while MoS for Health and Family Welfare Chandrima Bhattacharya was given the additional responsibility as MoS (independent charge) of the Department of Law and Judicial Affairs
Among the inductions in the Ministry Trinamool Congress MLA from Domjur in the State’s Howrah district Rajib Banerjee was made Minister of Irrigation and Water Wways while six Trinamool Congress MLAs were given MoS status.
In another significant development two Cabinet Ministers, Agriculture Minister, Rabindranath Bhattacharya was shunted to the Department of Statistics and Programme Implementation while the Department of Technical Education and Training was taken away from Minister Rabiranjan Chatterjee.
The State’s former chief secretary Manish Gupta who was Minister for Planning and Power and Non-conventional Energy Sources was divested of his Planning portfolio. Rachhpal Singh who was Tourism Minister for the last 18 months will look after the Planning Department. Mr Singh was also divested of the Tourism portfolio.
Manturam Pakhira replaced Shyamal Mondal as MoS for Sunderban Affairs and given independent charge.