Calcutta,: The Mamata Banerjee government has included six elected representatives of the CPM, RSP and the Congress in the advisory council of the fledgling tribal development department.
The chief minister, who is in charge of the department, is also part of the 13-member council, which was formed on Tuesday and notified today.
The other members are MLAs Khagen Murmu and Sushanta Besra of the CPM; Manohar Tirkey (MP) and Kumari Kujur (MLA) of the RSP; MLAs Joseph Munda and Sunil Tirkey of the Congress; MLAs Sandhyarani Tudu, Bachhu Hansda, Dulal Murmu and Wilson Chapramari of Trinamul; a representative of the governor; and the special secretary of the tribal development department.
Asked about the selection of the Opposition legislators, a senior state government official said: “This is really surprising. I cannot recollect this government giving such an advisory role to the Opposition.”
According to him, the chief minister had recommended the names of the Opposition members.
“It appears that the chief minister wants to send out the signal that she will welcome suggestions from everyone for the development of tribals,” the Nabanna official said.
He added that the inclusive nature of the council would also help counter the Opposition’s allegation that it was being gagged by the government.
The Opposition Left and Congress boycotted the closing ceremony of the Assembly’s platinum jubilee celebrations earlier this month over the allegation. The winter session preceding the celebrations witnessed several walkouts.
The Opposition, however, is looking at the composition of the council with suspicion.
The CPM’s Khagen Murmu said he was not consulted before being inducted into the council.
“I don’t know what we will do as council members. I can speak on the issue only after the government informs me about the decision,” he said.
“My question is, will the chief minister listen to us? As far as we know, she doesn’t even accept the views of her own ministers,” he added.
Senior officials said that in 2009, the Left Front government had set up a similar council in the backward classes welfare department, from which the tribal development department was carved out. The council, which included Congress legislators, never met.
A Congress leader said the party would first find out if the chief minister was “serious” about tribal development before allowing the two MLAs to be part of the council.