In a major reshuffle of her 18-month ministry in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday divested portfolios of at least seven ministers, interchanged some and dropped one while inducting eight new faces, including two former Congress MLAs, mostly from rural Bengal.
The exercise, interpreted in political circles as Banerjee's determination to tone up ministerial accountability and capabilities with an eye on ensuing panchayat elections in the state, came a day after the Trinamool Congress government completed 18 months in office yesterday.
Sources said that the reshuffle was undertaken as the chief minister was dissatisfied with the pace of work and performance of some ministers.
The minister dropped was Shyamal Mondal, who was in charge of Sunderbans development as a minister of state.
Mondal was replaced by Manturam Pakhira.
Both Chowdhury and Kabir yesterday resigned as Congress MLAs to join TMC who would seek reelection to the Assembly in bypolls.
The reshuffle was necessary to fill up six vacancies created by the resignation of Congress ministers following their party's pull-out from the Mamata Banerjee ministry on September 22 in a tit-for-tat response to the TMC's decision to walk out of the UPA government at the Centre.
Senior minister and state's former chief secretary Manish Gupta was divested of his Planning portfolio and he will continue to look after power and non-conventional energy sources.
The planning department was given to Rachpal Singh who was divested of his Tourism portfolio which would be taken care of by new face Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury.
Agriculture minister Rabindranath Bhattacharya was stripped of his portfolio and given statistics and programme implementation.
Moloy Ghatak, who was law and judicial minister, will be the new Agriculture minister. handrima Bhattacharya, who was MoS health, was promoted as a cabinet minister having independent charge of additional responsibility of law and judicial departments. New face Rajiv Banerjee is the new irrigation and waterways minister, in place of Manas Bhuinya who resigned as one of the six Congress ministers on September 22 last. Bhuinya's additional portfolio of micro and small-scale enterprise, has been given to newcomer Swapan Debnath. Madan Mitra (minister of transport and sports) and Arup Biswas (minister of housing and youth affairs) were promoted and made cabinet ministers. Manjulkrishna Thakur (minister of state in refugee rehabilitation department), belonging to Matua community, which has a large votebank, was promoted as a cabinet minister. Becharam Manna, known for being at the forefront of Singur land movement, was taken in the ministry with charge of minister of state for agriculture and child development.
Humayun Kabir, a former Congress MLA and a former loyalist of the minister of state for Railways Adhir Chowdhury who represented Rejinagar constituency in Murshidabad district before resigning, was made the minister for Animal Resources Development.