Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Amit Mitra to be Bengal finance minister for 3rd time, new cabinet to have mix of seniors, debutants

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He did not contest the recently concluded Bengal polls, yet economist Amit Mitra will be sworn in as state finance minister for the third time on Monday alongside many senior leaders and a few debutants as part of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s new cabinet.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders said that till Sunday evening, Banerjee had prepared a list of 24 cabinet ministers and 19 ministers of state. Though she did not declare their portfolios, Mitra, party leaders said, would be in charge of the finance department. Among the senior leaders who will make it to the cabinet again are Subrata Mukherjee, Partha Chatterjee, Firhad Hakim, Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, Bratya Basu, Soumen Mahapatra, Javed Khan and Moloy Ghatak.

There are speculations in the TMC that Subrata Mukherjee, who served as panchayat minister, may be given a different portfolio that focuses on urban affairs.

TMC leaders said Birbaha Hansda, the Santhali movie actress who won the Jhargram seat and Becharam Manna, who won the Singur seat, are likely to be made ministers of state. Another prospective minister is former Indian cricketer Manoj Tiwary who bagged the Shibpur seat in Howrah district.

Mitra, a former Secretary General of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), was a lawmaker from the Khardah assembly seat in North 24 Parganas for two consecutive terms but did not contest the recently concluded polls in which the Trinamool Congress bagged 213 seats against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s 77. Polls were held in 292 of the state’s 294 assembly seats as two candidates at two seats in Murshidabad district died of Covid-19. Polls in these constituencies will be held again later.

Incidentally, the Khardah seat fell vacant even before the poll results were announced on May 2. TMC’s Kajal Sinha, who won the seat, died of Covid-19 days after the election.

“With the party winning 213 seats, Mitra can contest and emerge as a winner from any seat, including Khardah which he earlier held. Mamata Banerjee, too, has to contest again as she lost from Nandigram in East Midnapore district. Finding two seats for them is not a big issue,” a top TMC leader told HT on condition of anonymity.

Since two ministers in the last government joined the BJP prior to the polls there are departments such as forest, that Rajib Banerjee held, or Transport, held by Suvendu Adhikari, for which Banerjee has to find ministers with experience, TMC leaders said.

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