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Mamata resigns, railways goes to Mukul Roy

May 19, 2011 23:48 IST

A day before she takes oath as the first woman chief minister of West Bengal, Mamta Banerjee resigned from the Union Council of Ministers where she was the Railway minister.

The prime minister will hold charge of the Railways until the next cabinet reshuffle, while Mamta's confidante Mukul Roy, who is the Minister of state for Shipping has been given additional charge of Railways.

Mamta, in her meeting with the prime minister, had made it clear that she wanted a minister from Trinamool in the Railways to keep track of, and to push the various projects which had been initiated for West Bengal during her stewardship of the Railways.

She was clear that she did not want the projects derailed.

There is intense speculation in the government that Railways would not go to the Trinamool as the Railway minister has always been a senior person, carrying political weight while being on various cabinet committees and Group of Ministers.

Sources say that Mamta has been offered three portfolios in lieu of the railway portfolio while her ministers of state would be there to keep track of the WB aspects of the railways. A final decision on this is yet to be taken.

The prime minister, who is hosting a dinner on May 22 to celebrate the second anniversary of the second term of the United Progressive Alliance, where a report card on the government's achievements would be released, is leaving for an Africa tour from May 23 to 28.

It is only after his return that the he and the Congress president would begin the process of consultation on the next cabinet reshuffle, which is now being tentatively scheduled around mid-June.

As the Prime Minister had earlier announced, this reshuffle round is expected to be a major exercise with some big ticket portfolios in the spotlight including the fate of Home Minister P Chidambaram and whether he would stay with the same portfolio.

There have been a number of major goof-ups and he is a target both in sections of the party and the government. It is, however, interesting that he would be present in Kolkata on Friday for Mamta's swearing-in, as a representative of the Congress, since the Congress president and the PM have decided not to go.

Pranab Mukherjee would be present as both a senior West Bengal leader, as well as a senior Union minister representing the government.

The PM is expected to make many changes in his council of ministers, including rationalising some of the existing ministers and ministries, chopping off the deadwood and the non-performers, which was not done last time, as well as giving representation to some seats where the Congress now needs to 'sweeten up' its allies.

For example, in Kerala where the Congress is dependent on its allies, E Ahmed may be promoted.

Sources say that a cabinet reshuffle is expected to bring into focus the functioning of the party where the Congress is set to face elections in crucial states such as Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

Renu Mittal New Delhi