Bengal ministers have MPs as advisers, now MLAs as secretaries

Amid the empty opposition benches, the state Assembly on Thursday passed a bill that paved the way for the government to appoint MLAs as parliamentary secretaries (PS) of ministers who will enjoy the status, privileges and perks similar to that of a Minister of State (MoS). Their main job will be to "co-ordinate between the government and the party".

The bill called "West Bengal Parliamentary Secretaries (Appointment, Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous) Bill, 2012" was moved in the house by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee and was adopted by a voice vote. The bill, however, specifies no maximum number of parliamentary secretaries. The strength of the state council of ministers is 44. The parliamentary secretaries will be appointed from among the sitting MLAs and would function as an intermediary between the departmental secretaries and the concerned minister and liaison with leaders of other parties and groups.

The bill prohibits a parliamentary secretary from practising any profession or being involved in trade. The government had earlier appointed MPs as advisers to ministers after it quit the UPA government at the Centre.

Later speaking to mediapersons, Chatterjee said the post existed since 1937 and also during the previous Left Front rule. "This time we have only broadened the scope of the bill and it will step up the pace of development in the state," he said.

The opposition CPM slammed the passing of the bill saying the government was becoming a "white elephant" with every passing day. "There are 44 ministers, seven advisers and now we will have 44 parliamentary secretaries. This will prove to be a drain in the exchequer. In fact, they are doing it to quell the growing dissension in the party,'' said Suryakanta Mishra, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly. The Left leaders also submitted a memorandum to Governor M K Narayanan protesting the passing of the bill.

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