In a major Cabinet reshuffle, West Bengal CM 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 the 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 political circles, who felt it 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 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. 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 government has substantial stakes.
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.
Becharam Manna was given additional charge as Minister of State for Land. Swapan Debnath was elevated as a full minister for MSME.