|Aroop Biswas (left) and Sovan Chatterjee|
Kinsuk Basu and Arnab Ganguly, TT, Calcutta, May 27: Aroop Biswas, a close aide of Mamata Banerjee, emerged as the biggest gainer today, bagging the crucial public works, youth affairs and sports portfolios.
Trinamul sources said Biswas had been rewarded for his loyalty.
Calcutta mayor Sovan Chatterjee came a close second, pouching the housing, fire and emergency services and environment departments.
The sources said Mamata had handed key departments to loyalists and also tried to strike a balance between various regions and communities.
“Aroop did a fabulous job as the Burdwan observer of the party. As the chief of the South 24-Parganas unit, Sovan virtually wiped out the Opposition by ensuring the victory of Trinamul in 29 of the 31 Assembly seats in the district. Both have got plum posts,” a senior Trinamul leader said.
Apart from handling his ministerial and organisational responsibilities, Biswas is the government’s go-to man with relation to Tollywood and his brother Swarup plays an official role in the film fraternity association.
After former transport and sports minister Madan Mitra’s arrest in connection with the Saradha scam, Biswas began liaising between the government and sports personalities too. He is believed to have played a key role in convincing former cricketer Laxmi Ratan Shukla to contest the polls. Shukla has been appointed Biswas’s deputy in the sports department.
“While some leaders close to Didi got caught up in the Narada controversy, Aroop did not have any such baggage. Like Bobby (minister Firhad Hakim), Sovan and Bakshi (Subrata Bakshi, the Calcutta South MP), Aroop will do whatever Didi says,” a Trinamul source said.
East Midnapore strongman Subhendu Adhikari, who contested the Assembly elections in keeping with Mamata’s wish, got the important transport department.
The distribution of departments did not have any major surprises as some of the ministers in the previous cabinet, such as Subrata Mukherjee, Partha Chatterjee, Amit Mitra, Hakim, Purnendu Bose, Jyotipriya Mullick, Rajib Banerjee, Sadhan Pande and Malay Ghatak, retained their portfolios.
Some ministers from the previous term were shifted to other departments to make room for new entrants such as Abdur Rezzak Mollah and Siddiqullah Chowdhury.
The Trinamul sources said Mamata had always kept faith in party leaders from south Calcutta and did not make a departure this time.
“The leaders who are always around her are from south Calcutta and she has reposed faith in them,” a Trinamul source said.
A Trinamul veteran who got a cabinet berth this time is Rashbehari MLA Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, who had been sidelined in the party. He has been made the power minister.
Chattopadhyay, however, is unlikely to get a free hand in running the department as Mamata announced that former power minister Manish Gupta, who lost the Jadavpur seat, would be assigned a role in the department that would carry a “rank equivalent to the minister-in-charge”.
“Sobhanda has always been served a raw deal. He was not made a minister last time though he was the first to resign from the Congress and become a Trinamul MLA after the party split,” a Trinamul source said.
Haider Aziz Safwi, who was dropped from the cabinet, will be the new deputy Speaker, replacing Sonali Guha, who was once close to Mamata. Nirmal Ghosh, the North 24-Parganas Trinamul observer, will be the government chief whip.