Kolkata, May 27 (IANS) Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee was on Friday sworn in for a second consecutive term as West Bengal chief minister at a grand public ceremony witnessed by thousands of supporters as well as eminent personalities, both from India and abroad.
Attired in a simple white sari and white stole, Banerjee was administered oath of office and secrecy by Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi in a ceremony held at the city’s historic Red Road (now renamed Indira Gandhi Sarani) – a wide boulevard that bisects the Maidan and hosts the annual Republic Day parade.
Banerjee, the state’s eighth chief minister and the first woman to occupy the post, took her oath in Bengali, and in the name of “Ishwar and Allah” and dedicated the event to “Ma, Mati, Manush” (Mother, land and people)”, her pet slogan.
Along with the chief minister, 42 other ministers were also sworn in. The ministery has 18 fresh faces, including former Indian cricketer Laxmi Ratan Shukla, city mayor Sovan Chatterjee, noted Bengali singer Indranil Sen, veteran Trinamool leader Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, and Marxist-turned Trinamool lawmaker Abdur Rezzak Mollah.
Twenty-nine of the ministers were of cabinet rank, five ministers of state (independent charge) and eight ministers of state.
Chatterjee, Chattopadhyay and Mollah got cabinet berths, while Shukla and Sen were made ministers of state.
Three of the ministers are women, seven belong to the Muslim community, while the Scheduled Caste and tribe communities also got several representatives.
Amit Mitra, Partha Chatterjee, Subrata Mukherjee, Sovandeb Chattopadhyay and Joardar were the first group of ministers to be administered the oath by the governor after the chief minister. The other ministers were then sworn in in batches. A number of them were seen touching Banerjee’s feet after taking oath.
All the ministers took their oath in Bengali, except Golam Rabbani, who preferred Hindi.
Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay as well as Bangladesh Industry Minister Amir Hossain Amu were among those who graced the occasion. Union ministers Arun Jaitley and Babul Supriyo, were present alongside chief ministers — Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi, Akhilesh Yadav of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar’s Nitish Kumar.
Former chief ministers — Jammu and Kashmir’s Farooq Abdullah and Bihar’s Lalu Prasad – as well as representatives from the DMK and the TDP flew down to witness the programme.
A galaxy of local celebrities, including ex Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, leading figures from the Bengali film industry, frontline industrialists of the state, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of the armed forces were also seen.
But the real story lay in the presence of the thousands of commoners at the function, which Banerjee moved away from the regal confines of Raj Bhavan – where new governments are traditionally sworn in – to a main thoroughfare to ensure the participation of the masses.
The Red Road took on a green hue as ecstatic Trinamool Congress supporters — their faces smeared in the green colour of the party — chanted “Bangla Hobe Biswasera” (Bengal will be world’s best) and celebrated on the street as their beloved “Didi” took over the reins of the state for the second time.
Many of them had travelled hundreds of kilometres from far-flung districts, others spent the night at railway platforms and walked all the way to the venue. From rickshaw-pullers to coolies, farmers, labourers, housemaids, as also street vendors and the middle class, they all arrived in large numbers to be part of the “historic day”.
The spirits were high, notwithstanding the scorching sun and oppressive humidity.
“I have come all the way here to watch Didi become chief minister again. We always feel she is one of us, and by taking the oath in public she has proved that,” Rabin Mondal, who came from Bolpur in Birbhum district, 160 km from Kolkata, told IANS.
The function over, Banerjee bade goodbye to her guests, and reached the secretariat Nabanna on the other side of the Hooghly river. She was accorded a ceremonial welcome and a guard-of-honour by the Kolkata Police, amid ashower of rose petals.
Late in the evening, Banerjee held the first meeting of her new council of ministers, declared the portfolios and announced the young generation would be her government’s focus in the next five years.
She also announced formation of a directorate for tea gardens in north Bengal, and said the state government employees would be given a ten percent relief on band pay.
The state’s opposition Left Front and state units of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) boycotted the function in protest against the attack on their activists, allegedly by ruling Trinamool Congress, during the polls.