After swearing-in, Mamata to focus on Covid control

KOLKATA: Mamata Banerjee, who will take oath for the third straight term as chief minister on Wednesday, is likely to lay down the roadmap for Bengal’s battle against Covid immediately after a pared-down swearing-in.
After the programme at Raj Bhavan at 10.45am — shorn of pomp because of the pandemic — Banerjee is scheduled to head directly to Nabanna, where she will most probably chair her first meeting to deliberate on Covid-control measures. Senior bureaucrats and medical experts are likely to attend her first meeting, in which several Covid-control issues and vaccine procurement modalities will be discussed.
Sources said one of the most important things on the agenda would be how to flatten the Covid curve in surge zones in Kolkata and North 24-Parganas, and ways to ease pressure on healthcare facilities that are getting overwhelmed. Another important point would be a route-map for vaccine-procurement and a potential rollout in state facilities immediately.
Banerjee has repeatedly said that Covid was her first priority, “and everything else will have to wait”, even telling senior officials who called on her that nothing else mattered more than saving lives.
At the meet, Banerjee is also likely to touch on the rollout modalities for the ambitious basic income scheme for women heads of 1.6 crore Bengal households — a key promise in the Trinamool poll manifesto — which has a proposed budgetary layout of Rs 12,900 crore.
Banerjee said the swearing-in ceremony would be a “small function”, limited to a few people. Invites have gone out from Raj Bhavan to several prominent people, among them BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and senior state assembly leaders. Others present would be Abhishek Banerjee, Subrata Bakshi and actor Dev, along with poll strategist Prasant Kishor. Former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Left Front leader Biman Bose, state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury and former opposition leader Abdul Mannan are also on the list of invitees. Bhattacharjee is unlikely to attend, as he has not been keeping well; Chowdhury said he hadn’t received any invite.
Invites have also gone out to BJP state president Dilip Ghosh and the party leader in the outgoing assembly, Manoj Tigga. Ghosh is unlikely to attend, party sources said. The BJP will hold a nationwide stir in protest against “attacks” on its party workers in Bengal, which will coincide with Banerjee’s first day in office. In 2016, too, BJP had chosen to stage a similar protest.
Senior TMC functionaries Partha Chatterjee, Subrata Bakshi and Firhad Hakim are likely to be among the attendees. However, sources indicated that only Banerjee is likely to be sworn in on Wednesday. Raj Bhavan also did not release any official communique on any cabinet ministers being sworn in. It is likely that cabinet portfolios may be allocated after MLAs are sworn in from Thursday. “The cabinet allocations may be done only from Sunday,” said a source.
Cabinet allocations for the Mamata Banerjee government, in its third term, assumes significance after several key ministers defected to BJP ahead of the polls. Between Suvendu Adhikari and Rajib Banerjee, there were four cabinet berths. Two ministers from North Bengal have lost the polls. Former finance minister Amit Mitra and senior minister Purnendu Bose did not contest the polls.

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