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West Bengal: Balancing castes and regions, four BJP MPs join Modi ministry

Bankura MP Subhas Sarkar, Bongaon MP Shantanu Thakur, Alipurduar MP John Barla and Cooch Behar MP Nisith Pramanik are the new faces from Bengal in the expanded Union Council of Ministers. All were drafted as ministers of states.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
Updated: July 8, 2021 10:42:58 am
The ministers represent various communities and ethnic groups of the state and are from different regions of Bengal. (Reuters)

The Centre on Wednesday drafted in four new ministers from West Bengal as part of the Cabinet reshuffle, while the previous four representing the state were dropped.

Bankura MP Subhas Sarkar, Bongaon MP Shantanu Thakur, Alipurduar MP John Barla and Cooch Behar MP Nisith Pramanik are the new faces from Bengal in the expanded Union Council of Ministers. All were drafted as ministers of states.

While Sarkar was made the minister of state (Education), Thakur took oath as the minister of state (Port, Shipping and Waterways). Barla was drafted in as the minister of state (Minority Affairs) and Pramanik was sworn in as the minister for state (Home Affairs and Youth Affairs and Sports).

The ministers represent various communities and ethnic groups of the state and are from different regions of Bengal. While Pramanik and Barla are from North Bengal, Sarkar comes from Bankura which is part of Junglemahal area (former Maoist belt in Bengal) and Thakur hails from Bongaon in the North 24 Parganas district, where a significant section of the population belong to Scheduled Castes. He also represents the Matua community.

Subhas Sarkar (67)

Sarkar is a gynaecologist by profession and from a young age has been associated with religious organisations like the Bharat Sevashram Sangha and the Ramakrishna Mission. He has also been an active member of Vidya Baharati, the educational wing of the RSS, in Bankura district. Sarkar is well-known for his social work and philanthropy. He was instrumental in establishing formal and informal schools for the poor and marginalized communities in Bankura and neighbouring districts.

Nisith Pramanik (35)

Pramanik left the TMC and joined the BJP in March 2019. He used to be a primary school teacher. His mother Chhanda belongs to the Koch Rajbongshi community, while his father Bidhu Bhushan Pramanik is a Dalit. He was instrumental in helping the BJP get a foothold in Cooch Behar district. In the recently held Assembly polls, the BJP won seven out of the total nine seats in Cooch Behar district.

John Barla (45)

Born to a family of tea garden labourers, Barla is a known face in Alipurduar for his activism. He had joined DYFI, youth wing of the CPI(M), and worked for the welfare of tea garden workers and the poor. He later joined the Adivasi Vikas Parishad (AVP) that resisted the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s attempts to expand its organisational reach in the Dooars region in 2007.

Barla fell out with the AVP leadership over their support to the ruling Trinamool Congress and eventually left the organisation to join the BJP in 2017. He worked hard to expand the BJP’s footprints in North Bengal. In Assembly polls, the BJP won all five seats in Alipurduar district.

Barla recently ruffled feathers in the BJP top brass after demanding that a separate state be carved out of North Bengal. He later retracted his statement after being censured by the top leadership.

While not naming him, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday told reporters that plans to bifurcate or divide Bengal have failed in the past and the same will happen again.

Shantanu Thakur (39)

He belongs to the Thakur family which heads the Matua Mahasangh, a religious sect of Namasudras (scheduled castes) which traces its origins in Orakandi in Faridpur district of Bangladesh. The Matuas had set up their headquarters at Thakurnagar in the North 24 Parganas district after Partition. Thakur has been actively involved in the affairs of the Mahasangh from a young age and helped his father Manjul Krishna Thakur, who was a minister in the previous Trinamool government in Bengal.

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