With several national leaders across the political spectrum, including the Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Bihar present at the swearing-in ceremony of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee here on Friday, voices were raised for a new federal front against the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“I am a commoner, a less important person. But I will help all of them, no problem, if anybody wants my help. Let me work for the people,” was Ms. Banerjee’s guarded response.
Open air ceremony
Though Ms. Banerjee was being sworn in for the second time, the occasion was no less historic nor the setting less grand.
Unlike the first time when she took oath at the Raj Bhavan and walked amid surging crowds to the Writers’ Building, this time thousands assembled on the busiest arterial road in Kolkata to witness the ceremony.
Ms. Banerjee, along with 41 other MLAs, was administered the oath on the Red Road, which has been closed for three days. In batches of five, 29 Cabinet Ministers, eight Ministers of State and five Ministers of State with independent charge were sworn in. While the swearing-in at Red Road was a unique event, it was followed by Ms. Banerjee taking oath in the name of “Ishwar and Allah”. Taking a cue from her, some other Ministers also took oath in the name of “Ishwar and Allah”.
Later, addressing the media at the function, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad raised the issue of a federal front and called upon all secular parties to unite against the BJP and the RSS.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah said, “There is every possibility of such a front that might save India from disaster being formed in the near future.”
Asked if Ms. Banerjee could head such a front, Mr. Abdullah said: “There are many who can head the front, Mamataji is one of them. She has worked for a secular India, a united India.”
Asserting that it had become imperative for parties having similar ideologies to discuss a larger coalition, Mr. Lalu Prasad said, “If we fail to wake up in time and don’t unite, the BJP and the RSS will divide the country.”
Mr. Akhilesh Yadav, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal and Mr. Nitish Kumar, however, did not make any comment on the front. DMK leader K. Kanimozhi was also present at the function, attended by Bhutan’s Prime Minister and the Industry Minister of Bangladesh.
After the ceremony. Ms. Banerjee went to the Nabanna Building, the State Secretariat. She was given a guard of honour by a contingent of Kolkata Police, led by a woman officer.
As with the distribution of ticket, Ms. Banerjee maintained status quo in distribution of berths in her council of Ministers.
She has retained the portfolios of Home, Information and Cultural Affairs, Health, Minority Affairs and Land and Land Reforms.
While heavyweights like Amit Mitra and Partha Chatterjee retained the Finance and Education, there were no changes in the portfolios of Subrata Mukherjee, Firhad Hakim, both accused in the Narada sting. Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee, also seen in the tapes, was given departments of Housing and Environment.