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Mamata matures into CM-in-waiting
Kolkata, Jun 10 (IANS):
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Published on 10 Jun. 2010 11:12 PM IST
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Once dubbed a rabble rouser incapable of doing anything constructive, Mamata Banerjee has matured. Today the union railway minister and Trinamool Congress chief is widely accepted as West Bengal’s chief minister-in-waiting. Her ascendancy into the state secretariat, called Writers’ Building, is now seen to be just months away.
‘Didi’s’ transformation is seen to have come about through fierce political struggle and unwavering opposition to Communists who lead the state’s ruling Left Front.
From being her party’s solitary representative in the previous Lok Sabha to wrecking the red bastion in West Bengal, 55-year-old Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress she founded 12 years ago to take on the Communists now occupy an enviable position in the state.
She may be railway minister but has made her preference for West Bengal clear, camping for days on end in the state to the exclusion of much else. When a passenger train derailed in the Maoist stronghold of Jhargram, killing more than 100 people, she was there right on the spot, directing relief operations and stating that she would not move till the last person had been rescued.
That was just two days ahead of the civic polls on May 30, which she swept, routing the Left Front. Banerjee is now trying to extend her party’s influence and step up pressure on the state government through a series of movements to erode Communist bases ahead of next year’s assembly polls.
Banerjee’s journey in politics spans almost four decades since her baptism as a stormy petrel of the Congress’ students wing, Chhatra Parishad, in the 1970s.
The daughter of a freedom fighter and with a post-graduate degree in arts besides degrees in law and education, Banerjee was mentored in her early public life by Subrata Mukherjee - now ironically one of her followers in the Trinamool.
Maverick and emotional, she first hogged the limelight by blocking Jayaprakash Narayan’s convoy by throwing herself on the ground when he came to the city to organise the masses against Indira Gandhi before Emergency.
Banerjee made political analysts sit up and take notice in 1984 when she stunned Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) stalwart Somnath Chatterjee by defeating him in the Jadavpur constituency on her maiden Lok Sabha contest.
The ‘didi’ of Kalighat soon became a rallying point for the anti-Left Front sections which saw in her an uncompromising, incorruptible and credible fighter. Her nondescript residence - a tiled single-storey house in a dingy lane close to the Kalighat temple - and equally simple attire comprising cotton saris, jhola bags and cheap hawai chappals, endeared her to the masses.
And till date, the long honeymoon with the masses continues, with Banerjee being one of the handful politicians in the country whose lifestyle has remained the same regardless of her growing stature.
Banerjee quit the Congress in 1998, saying it had diluted its opposition to the CPI-M, and formed the Trinamool Congress, which soon dislodged the parent party to become the state’s main opposition.
In her bid to strike the right arithmetic to oust the CPI-M-led Left Front government, Banerjee courted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) during 1998-2001, supped with the Congress during the 2001 assembly polls, and again dated the NDA during 2001-06.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Banerjee joined forces with the Congress to defeat the Left Front, only to fight the recent civic polls alone after the collapse of seat adjustment talks between the two parties.
Till 2006, Banerjee raised the prospect of scoring better than the Left Front before every election, only to be disappointed by the results.
She first made inroads into the Left’s rural votebank during the panchayat elections in 2008, riding on the peasant protests in Nandigram and Singur.
The movements led by her - civil society and other political parties joined Banerjee’s bandwagon - forced the state government to scrap the chemical hub in Nandigram while Tata Motors shifted the Nano plant from Singur to Gujarat.
Banerjee coined a catchy slogan “Ma, Mati o Manush” (Mother, Land and People) before last year’s Lok Sabha polls and played on the anti-incumbency factor after more than three decades of Left rule and the creeping disillusionment among several sections, like Muslims, to decimate the Left in partnership with the Congress.
She successfully sold a vision of development, cashing in on the deep resentment among the middle classes and unemployed youths, promising jobs and development. “We will metamorphose Kolkata into London, the sea resort of Digha into Goa and the hill tourist haven Darjeeling into Switzerland,” she thundered at public rallies.
“I have a vision, I have a mission and I have the brains to implement them,” Banerjee told the people.

 
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