West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday carried out a major overhaul in her party, the Trinamool Congress, and announced that a reshuffle of her cabinet would take place on August 3. She said that four to five new faces would be inducted into the new cabinet.
The TMC on Monday carried out a major organisational reshuffle in the party and appointed several new faces, including some ministers, in various posts with a thrust on toning up the party ahead of next year's panchayat polls.
Both the moves were made amid the ongoing political furore over the arrest of now-suspended party leader Partha Chatterjee by the Enforcement Directorate in a school recruitment scam. He has also been stripped of his ministerial portfolios.
"We have to reshuffle our Cabinet. But (I) do not have any plan to dissolve the Cabinet and come up with a new one," Banerjee told reporters following a Cabinet meeting held at the state secretariat. She said that at least 4-5 members of the present Cabinet will be utilised for party work.
Minister Saumen Mahapatra was assigned organisational responsibilities, while four MLAs - Tapas Ray, Partha Bhowmick, Udayan Guha and Snehasis Chakraborty - were relieved of their party duties in their respective districts amid reports that they could find a place in the state ministry.
Banerjee said that several departments were currently functioning without any dedicated minister, and it is not possible for her to shoulder responsibilities of these alone. "Senior leaders Subrata Mukherjee who was in charge of Panchayat and PHE, and Sadhan Pandey, the minister of consumer affairs, have died and Partha Chatterjee is in jail. Partha was looking after Industry, IT and Parliamentary affairs. Someone will have to do the jobs they were doing," she said.
There was a buzz about a possible ministerial rejig during Monday's Cabinet, which, however, will take place on August 3. "The reshuffle will be carried out on Wednesday. We will introduce four to five new faces in the Cabinet and utilise an equal number of Cabinet ministers for party work," the CM said.
Banerjee had for a brief period supervised the Panchayat and PHE departments as well as Consumer Affairs & Self Help Group & Self-Employment department following the death of their respective ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Sadhan Pandey. These portfolios were now held by others. Her party also rejigged the organisation during the day.
"The All India Trinamool Congress, under the inspiration and guidance of Hon'ble Chairperson Smt Mamata Banerjee, is pleased to announce a few new appointments of District Chairman & District President for West Bengal Trinamool Congress," the party said in a statement.
The imprint of the party's national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee was evident in the reshuffle in which several "non-performers" were axed, and some were relieved of organisational duties paving their way for ministerial berths.
According to TMC insiders, Bhowmick and Chakraborty are considered close to Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of the chief minister. The new district committees have been set up with a mix of experienced and young leaders in the party, the sources said.
Out of the 35 organisational districts, 11 presidents and five chairmen were changed. BJP MLA Biswajit Das, who had switched sides to the TMC but is yet to resign as an MLA, was made district president of Matua community-dominated Bongaon organisational district.
Das had joined the BJP from the TMC ahead of the assembly polls, only to return after the assembly polls last year. The opposition BJP mocked the ruling party and said such cosmetic changes won't yield any results.
"These cosmetic changes are nothing but an eye wash. It won't yield any result. It is clear that the TMC is a structurally corrupt party," BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said.
(With PTI Inputs)