Congress-Trinamool feud escalates after Bengal reshuffle

Congress-Trinamool feud escalates after Bengal reshuffle

Nearly eight months into her stint, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Monday inducted two new ministers and reshuffled of portfolios, triggering shrill protests from alliance partner Congress after secretariat sources revealed that wings of two of its ministers had been clipped.

However, no list of ministerial portfolio was made available to the media till late at night. According to secretariat sources, Congress minister of state Manoj Chakraborty who had attacked the chief minister when she asked his party to walk out of the alliance if it so desired, lost his two portfolios -- parliamentary affairs and small and cottage industries.

Chakraborty's party colleague Abu Hena, the cabinet minister for fisheries and food processing, was divested of the food processing portfolio which went to Trinamool's Ujjal Biswas who presently in charge of youth affairs.

Both Chakraborty and Hena are from Murshidabad district, a Congress stronghold where Banerjee's bete noire and Congress MP Adhir Chowdhury holds sway.  Chowdhury, along with Raiganj MP Deepa Dasmunshi had led the verbal assault on the chief minister during the recent Congress-Trinamool spat over renaming of Indira Bahvan, death of farmers and beating of a college principal by Trinamool activists in Raganj.

Chakraborty was furious at the move. "This is completely unwarranted and unacceptable to us. We have been sent to the cabinet by the high authorities of our party, by (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi and not by any Tom, Dick or Harry. There is too much dictatorship, it is high time we moved out of the alliance," he said.

Chakrabarty also said Congress will contest the upcoming Panchayat elections in West Bengal on its own.  "There is no question of alliance for the Panchayat elections. We will contest on our own".
"I had dared to oppose the government's move to rename the Indira Bhavan, that's why I have been meted out this treatment. No matter what I will continue to oppose anything unjust," said Chakrabarty adding that he will consult his party leaders before deciding on accepting the  ministry offered to him.

Earlier in the day, Governor M.K. Narayanan administered the oaths of office and secrecy to Trinamool's Arup Biswas and Chandrima Bhattacharya at the Raj Bhavan. Biswas was sworn in as minister of state (independent charge) and Bhattacharya as minister of state.

Bhattacharya later said she had been made minister of state in health department. The poor state of affairs in government hospitals - reflected in a series of crib deaths, incidence of rats nibbling at patients, death of a pregnant woman after she was allegedly refused admission, and a case of theft of a newborn - have triggered widespread criticism. Banerjee herself holds the health portfolio.

The incidents had sparked demand from the opposition that Banerjee give up health and appoint a separate minister for the crucial department. In fact, Leader of Opposition Surya Kanta Mishra said appointing a minister of state for the health department will not do. "What is needed is that the busy chief minister should give up the portfolio and allot it to another cabinet minister".