West Bengal assembly has slammed the Mamata Banerjee government for passing a bill that will allow additional it to have additional ministers. There is a limit prescribed for the number of ministers in a government and Banerjee's government has 44.
If the government has more people on board, then those added personnel would not be called ministers but parliamentary secretaries and would enjoy benefits due to a minister.
The Opposition protested the move, saying the bill was passed when they had boycotted the house and was a ploy by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo to keep her party members happy by offering them posts. The Opposition informed the Governor, MK Narayanan, about their objections. The Governor has to give his final seal of approval to the bill.
The Parliamentary Secretaries (Appointment, Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2012 has not said about appointment of 44 ministers. But since Banerjee already has 44 ministers, the Opposition claimed that each one of those ministers would be provided with a parliamentary secretary and they would be given benefits amounting to roughly Rs 4 lakh per month.
Congress leader Manas Bhuiyan said the chief minister, on the other hand, has been expressing her helplessness over the massive debt burden on her state, and yet is backing accommodation of added parliamentary secretaries. "How can she afford this?" he asked.
According to some sections, Banerjee's decision was to keep the integirty of the party intact. The TMC has been facing serious rift within and even one MLA, Shikha Mitra, has been suspended. The chief minister was trying to keep party members happy by offering them higher government posts. Anisur Rehman of the CPI(M) said the ruling party was facing a tough time and the effort to create posts to pacify rebels would not work.
TMC minister Partha Chatterjee, however, said it was a wrong perception of the Opposition. He said the Left, which was previously in power, had left the state under a huge burden and that their government was doing developmental work.
The post of parliamentary secretary had existed widely between the mid-1930s and early 1960s. Recent moves in states like Rajasthan, Goa and Nagaland to create new such posts have been challenged in court. It seems the situation in West Bengal will also go the same way.