ADDRESSING a press conference soon after taking over as Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee declared: "It will be our effort to present to the people of West Bengal a dynamic, disciplined, responsive government, which will be corruption-free and transparent in its functioning." The structure and composition of his Ministry suggests that he has taken the first step in this direction. It is clear that a lot of thought has gone into the whole process of Ministry-making. "Do it now" is the new catch-phrase of the Chief Minister and his Cabinet colleagues.
The 48-member Ministry comprises 34 Cabinet Ministers and 14 Ministers of State. There are 12 first-time Ministers, including Nirupam Sen, Mohammad Salim, Nandarani Dal and Kanti Ganguly. Kamal Guha, Sailen Sarkar and Chhaya Ghosh are back in the Ministry. Among the old faces who did not find a place in the Ministry are Proloy Talukdar, Santi Ranjan Ghatak and Debobroto Bandopadhyay, who did not contest the elections; Partho De, Biren Moitro, Manohar Tirke, Kshiti Goswami and Satyaranjan Mahato, who lost the elections; and Kamalendu Sanyal, who was Minister of State for Land and Land Reforms. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has 33 Ministers, the Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party five each, the Communist Party of India two, the Socialist Party, Democratic Socialist Party and Marxist Forward Bloc one each.
A senior member of the CPI(M) said: "Before forming the Ministry, a lot of things had to be taken into consideration, including representation for all the districts, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and women and the expectations of the other Left Front partners." The Ministry has five women, five Muslims, six members belonging to the S.C. and three belonging to the S.T.
It is obvious that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Industry Minister Nirupam Sen, Health Minister Surjya Kanta Mishra, Labour Minister Mohammad Amin and Finance Minister Ashim Dasgupta will play an important role in identifying the development priorities of the government.
The portfolio of Minority Welfare and Urban Employment has been given to Mohammad Salim, taking into consideration his successful stint as Chairman of the Minority Development Corporation. Former Tourism Minister Manab Mukherjee has been given the newly-created portfolio of Information Technology. He is a person interested in computers and a student of management from Calcutta University. The Tourism portfolio has gone to Dinesh Dakua, who hails from northern Bengal, an important area of tourism. Health, which has been identified as one of the priorities by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has been allotted to Surjya Kanta Mishra, himself a medical doctor and chest specialist. Mishra also holds the important portfolio of Panchayat and Rural Development.
Nirupam Sen, the Minister for Commerce and Industry and Development and Planning, has been a member of the CPI(M) from his student days. A highly respected, dedicated party worker, Nirupam Sen joined the CPI(M) in 1964 and led many struggles of students and workers. In 1974 he was arrested while leading a demonstration by railway workers. In 1998, he became a member of the CPI(M)'s Central Committee.
Nandarani Dal, Minister for Mass Education, won by a record margin of 1.08 lakh votes from Keshpur. First elected to the Assembly in 1967 from Ghatal, this high school teacher has won all the elections except in 1972. Her father Amulya Dal was a member of the undivided CPI and had won from Ghatal in 1952.
Kanti Ganguly, the Minister of State for Sunderban Development, became a member of the undivided CPI in 1961. Between 1969 and 1977 he went underground and lived in Bankura under the pseudonym Samir Mukherjee. Even during this period he organised a movement of beedi workers.
Mohammad Salim, Minister for Minority Welfare, Youth Services and Urban Employment, is young, articulate and highly popular. He is the all-India president of the Democratic Youth Federation of India. In 1990, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha. He became a Central Committee member of the CPI(M) in 1995.