In a major Cabinet reshuffle,West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee Thursday stripped Partha Chatterjee her confidant and one of the senior most Trinamool Congress leaders - of the commerce and industry portfolio. The portfolio has been given to state Finance Minister Amit Mitra in addition to his existing responsibility.
The move to remove a party heavyweight over alleged non-performance was described as bold by many in the political circles. Many felt this will send a strong message to other ministers and functionaries to either perform or perish.
However,a debate continues to rage in the TMC over whether the failure to woo industry in Bengal is an individual failure or whether it should be seen as a fallout of the Tata Motors fiasco and the policy of the present government regarding land procurement for industry. Industrialists say it will take more time to gain confidence in the government before investments start rolling in.
About a week ago,Mamata had lambasted Chatterjee at a performance review meeting,saying he should move away from the commerce and industry ministry if he fails to deliver and make room for others.
On Thursday,however,she sugarcoated the decision,saying: Partha da was overburdened with many departments and responsibilities. So the industry portfolio was divided. He will continue to look after information technology and parliamentary affairs. Partha da looks after lot of party work as general secretary and also helps me with party work. To lessen his workload,the department has been bifurcated and commerce and industry given to Amit Mitra. We need to give more attention and time to commerce and industry.
A seemingly unhappy Chatterjee later said,Whatever Mamata Banerjee has done,she has done it for good. People will judge what has been my contribution all these years. Later,he resigned from the chairmanship of the Haldia Petrochemical Limited - a company in which the West Bengal government has substantial stake,which it wants to sell.
In 2011,when the Trinamool government came to power,Chatterjee had been a surprise pick for the commerce and industry portfolio,pipping Amit Mitra,who many believed was the first choice given his background as the former secretary general of FICCI. The move was explained as Mamatas reward to Chatterjee for his untiring efforts and initiatives during the Singur movement days.
Meanwhile,there were about a dozen changes of portfolios,including two new inductions,that Mamata described as adjustments and readjustments.
Sashi Panja joined as Minister for Women and Child Welfare,which was earlier looked after by Sabitri Mitra.
Hiten Barman was divested of his responsibility as Forest Minister and the portfolio was given to Binoy Barman.
Agriculture and agri-marketing minister Becharam Manna was given additional charge as Minister of State for Land.
Nure Alam Chowdhury was given the portfolio of Planning and Statistics,which was so far being looked after by Rachpal Singh. Singh was given charge of the Cooperation department.
Shankar Chakrabarty,the present Cooperation Minister,was given charge of PWD,while Shyamapada Mukherjee was given charge of Textile Ministry. Swapan Debnath was elevated as a full minister for MSME.
Dr Upen Biswas will handle the charge of environment ministry for three months as Dr Sudarshan Ghosh Dostidar,who holds the portfolio,is indisposed.