KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has rejigged her 43-member cabinet in less than a week after the BJP stunned her party by making historic gains in the recent general elections. The exercise came a couple of hours after four Trinamool, Congress, and CPM MLAs and 50 civic councillors from Didi's party joined the BJP in a press conference at its central headquarters in New Delhi.
The MLAs included Subhrangshu Roy, son of Mamata's confidante and now BJP leader Mukul Roy, Tusharkanti Bhattacharya of the Congress and Debendra Roy from the CPM. TMC's Muslim MLA Monirul Islam too joined the BJP. The BJP's central leadership has threatened more damage to Trinamool. Party general secretary and Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayavargiya said, "We will induct people from other parties in phases just like elections in Bengal were held in seven phases. Tuesday's was the first phase. Many more are in touch with us."
He added, "This will happen every month. We all wish the Mamata Banerjee government completes its tenure but cannot help if people do not want this." Meanwhile, in Didi's cabinet rejig, the portforlios of two ministers, Benoy Krishna Burman and Shantiram Mahato, were taken away and given to party seniors Subrata Mukherjee, Subhendu Adhikari, Rajiv Banerjee and Bratya Basu.
In the first administrative review meeting to be convened by the CM on June 7, North Bengal and Jangalmahal will be the core topics to be discussed. Sources reveal, the CM will take stock of state projects in these zones. Trinamool's electoral setback in the Jangalmahal belt of Midnapore, Jhargram, Purulia, and Bankura, where the party failed to win a single Lok Sabha seat, had prompted the CM last week to task Subhendu Adhikari to lead the fightback in this belt.
Subrata Mukherjee, who was relieved from the state cabinet to fight the Bankura LS seat, was handed back his old panchayat portfolio along with the additional responsiblity of Paschimanchal development. With the crossing of over 50 councillors, the control of four North 24 Paraganas municipalities - Naihati, Kanchrapara, Halishahar, and Bhatpara has effectively gone to the BJP. They said they had nothing against Mamata but wanted to be part of Modi's development plan.
Mamata, in her might, is setting the stage for an escalation of the fight with the BJP. She has asked party leaders to recapture TMC offices allegedly "occupied" by the BJP as early as possible. The Trinamool chief, who held an extended core committee meeting of the party, appointed her brother Kartik Banerjee and state minister Bratya Basu as president and chairman respectively of the party's frontal 'Jay Hind Bahini'. Trinamool Congress MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar was appointed the chairman of 'Banga Janani Bahini', another frontal organisation.
Recapture party offices
A senior party leader said, "We have been told to recapture the party offices which had been occupied by the BJP workers after the Lok Sabha polls as early as possible." The leader quoted her as saying, "She said the people of Bengal will never forgive traitors. They will get a befitting reply." Banerjee has asked party leaders to reach out to the masses and expressed confidence that the Trinamool Congress will bounce back in the days to come.
The leader said, "We have been asked to reach out to the masses and increase the connect with them. We have been told to bring back the old timers to the party fold." Banerjee also directed her party leaders to organise small meetings and gatherings in areas where the party was defeated. "We have been asked to prepare a complete report on grievances of the masses," the Trinamool leader said.