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Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee effected a minor reallocation in her cabinet, giving Chandrima Bhattacharya independent charge of the finance department with the rank of minister of state, an official said.
Firhad Hakim, the state’s transport minister, was also given charge of the department of housing and urban affairs as well.
Hakim who used to be Housing minister in Banerjee’s cabinet for a decade till the last assembly election had not been given this portfolio, considered important in the state, when the cabinet was re-formed last year.
Bhattacharya has been in-charge of the urban development department and was also minister of state for finance since Mamata Banerjee government took oath last May for the third time in the state. Banerjee had taken on the mantle of finance minister then and will be passing it on to Bhattacharya, a close aide now.
The announcement made on International Women’s Day was not without significance, said political observers.
Last year the BJP-led government in Assam too had appointed a woman, Ajantha Neog, as the state’s first woman finance minister. The union government has till now had two women occupying the position of finance minister. The first was Indira Gandhi who took over the ministry from July 1969 to June 1970 during which she effected the nationalisation of 14 of the country’s largest banks. After her, Nirmala Sitharaman became the next woman to be finance minister of India, taking over the job in May 2019.
In Bengal, Former finance minister and economist Amit Mitra, considered the brains behind the state’s excise policies which have seen a buoyant tax income mainly on account of rising revenues from liquor sales, remains principal chief advisor on finance and economy with rank of Cabinet Minister.
Hakim thanked Banerjee for reinstating him as urban and municipal affairs minister and promised to carry out his duties diligently. “When Sovan (Chatterjee) left (the party) my leader (Mamata Banerjee) made me the city mayor and I carried out my duties. I am a trusted member of TMC. I will try my best and carry out my duties. I thank my leader for having faith in me,” Hakim told PTI when contacted.
Bhattacharya described her elevation as minister with independent charge as the “best gift” to women of the state on Women’s Day from the chief minister. “I am a trusted soldier of Mamata Banerjee and will carry out the responsibilities entrusted to me till my last breath,” she said. Bhattacharya also retains charge of health and family welfare as well as department of land and land reforms as also refugee relief and rehabilitation. She is also looking after the department of planning and statistics and also after department of programme monitoring.
The list which was sent to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar for his approval on Monday, was cleared today by Raj Bhavan.
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