West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on Wednesday, expanded her Cabinet by inducting eight new ministers. Keeping an eye on the upcoming Panchayat polls, Mamata ensured due representation for rural Bengal in her ministry. With the reshuffle, the Cabinet strength now stands at 44.
Becharam Manna, who led the TMC agitation against the CPM and Tata Motors in Singur, is the new agriculture minister. Other new faces include Monturam Pakhira, Giasuddin Mollah, Rajib Banerjee, Swapan Debnath and Pundarikaksha Saha.
Mamata took the opportunity to fill the vacancies left by Congress ministers, after they parted ways with the TMC in a quid pro quo move after she quit UPA-II. Two rebel Congress MLAs, Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury and Humayun Kabir, who formally joined the TMC on Tuesday, received cabinet berths.
While Chowdhury,from English Bazar in Malda, got a Cabinet berth, Kabir, from Reginagar in Murshidabad, became a Minister of State (Mos). Both leaders could provide arsenal against the newly-elected Union Ministers from Bengal Congress viz., Deepa Dasmunsi, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, and could help the TMC make inroads into Congress bastions.
Mamata meted out rewards and punishments in equal measure. Five ministers, including Madan Mitra, Manjulkrishna Thakur, Subrata Saha and Aroop Biswas, were elevated to Cabinet ranks. She gave up the health portfolio and accorded Chandrima Bhattacharya, who was MoS for Health, independent charge.
Rabindranath Bhattacharya and Shyamal Mandal faced the axe for their lacklustre performances. West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan administered the oath of office to 13 ministers at the Raj Bhavan here.