Kolkata: Mamata Banerjee may have said she was happy with her Trinamool Congress's performance in the recent panchayat polls, but her cabinet reshuffle today is clear indication she is concerned about her party's poor show in the tribal dominated districts in the state, especially Jhargram and Purulia. So the West Bengal chief minister who currently holds six major portfolios has taken on a seventh: Tribal Development.
In both Jhargram, adjoining the once-Maoist infested Lalgarh, and Purulia, also a former Maoist hotbed and part of the tribal belt called Junglemahal, the Trinamool lost ground to the BJP in the rural poll. In Balarampur block, Purulia, where two BJP workers died last week -- one hung from a tree, the other from an electric pylon and officially declared a suicide - the BJP erased the Trinamool.
The Tribal Development portfolio was held by James Kujur who resigned from the post earlier this week, opting to work for the party instead. He was one of three ministers to take that exit route.
At least three sitting ministers have lost key portfolios. In good books, Suvendu Adhikari, transport minister has now been given additional charge of environment. He has not only visibly improved transport services in the state, he has also repeatedly proved to be a good manager of the party affairs.
In the recent panchayat poll, he delivered a sweeping win in East Midnapore district and smashed the Congress bastion at Murshidabad district. "We will do a Murshidabad in Malda district too," Mr Adhikari said yesterday. Malda is loyal to Congress despite the growth of the Trinamool.
The "demoted" ministers include Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee who lost the environment portfolio. He has lately made news for personal problems -- a public spat with his estranged wife over an extramarital affair and divorce proceeding.
Politically, too, he is believed to have fallen from grace for skipping campaigning for his father-in-law who contested and won the Maheshtala bypoll on a Trinamool ticket. The seat fell vacant after the mayor's mother-in-law, a Trinamool legislator, died.
Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee has taken a hit too, retaining Panchayat and Rural Development and acquiring Water Resources Investigation and Development but losing the funds-rich Public Health Engineering portfolio to the state's Labour, Law and Judicial Affairs minister Moloy Ghatak.
One of the youngest ministers in the Mamata Banerjee government has appeared to have received a rap on the knuckles. Rajib Banerjee lost the vital Irrigation and Waterways portfolio and was given Backward Class Welfare instead. Some are viewing the change as a bigger responsibility.
The clear gainers, besides Mr Adhikari and Mr Ghatak, are Chandrima Bhattacharya, MoS Tribal Affairs, and Saumen Kumar Mahapatra, MIC Irrigation and Waterways respectively.