West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday inducted as many as 43 Ministers into her Cabinet, including 18 new faces. The Ministers, including nine junior ministers, were administered the oath of office by Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar at Raj Bhavan in state capital Kolkata.
However, two of Mamata's senior Cabinet colleagues - Finance Minister Amit Mitra and Higher Education Minister Bratya Bose - were sworn in virtually. While Mitra has been unwell, Bose is said to be recovering from Covid-19. All the veterans of Mamata's ruling Trinamool Congress party - Subrata Mukherjee, Partha Chatterjee, Firhad Hakim, Aroop Biswas, Sujit Bose, Chandrima Bhattacharya and Shashi Panja - have found a berth in Mamata's new Cabinet.
Though Mamata allocated almost all the ministries to her new Cabinet colleagues, she has retained six key portfolios, including home and health. Mamata took her oath as the chief minister for the third time on May 5. The swearing-in ceremony comes a day after the Governor approved the CBI's plea to prosecute four former ministers of Mamata's government in a cash-for-favours scam.
Surprisingly, two of the accused in the Narada tapes scandal - Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim - are in the new Cabinet. The Narada scandal was a sting operation carried out by a journalist that caught on tape several ministers and senior officials of the erstwhile Mamata government accepting cash bribes in exchange for doling out unofficial favours to a private firm.
Last week, Mamata scripted history by single handedly pulling off an astounding victory in the assembly election. She not only defied anti-incumbency and staved off a huge challenge from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP, but also decimated the Left Front. Though her party swept back to power with a resounding majority of 213 seats in the 292-member assembly, the 66-year-old firebrand politician lost her own seat in Nandigram to her former protege-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari by a thin margin of around 2,000 votes.
"This is Bangla's win... this is Bengal's win... this is your win. This win has saved Bengal, it has saved the culture and tradition of Bengal," she said, addressing a press meet on May 5. Mamata, however, made it clear that she would challenge the result in a court of law. "How come the Election Commission reversed the results in Nandigram after formally announcing it? We will move court."
The BJP though has made major gains in Bengal, winning some 77 seats. In 2016, the party had just three legislators in the state. However, the Left Front has failed to grab a single seat this time. The Left Front ruled Bengal for 34 years - from 1977 to 2011. Bengal witnessed the most high-profile contest in India's recently held state elections. While Mamata harped on being Bengal’s daughter, the BJP asked people to vote for "change and socio-economic development" after 50 years of Communist and Trinamool Congress rule.