By Sanika Natu:
Something, embossed permanently on the pages of West Bengal politics can certainly be the Assembly Elections of 2011. That lady in an austere avatar, clad in any light-colored sari, sans cosmetics or jewellery brought curtains to 34-years uninterrupted rule of the Left Front. The Communist Party of India- Marxist (CPI-M) tumbled after being a communist government serving for the longest period, courtesy the lady they call ‘Didi’, Mamata Banerjee.
January 5th 1955 was the day West Bengal’s first woman Chief Minister was born in a lower middle-class set up of Calcutta. From a young age she was regarded as firepower orator with a stern persona. Mamata Banerjee got into politics as a young adult studying in Calcutta with the student wing of Indian National Congress. Maverick as she is, she grabbed the public eye by throwing herself in front of Jayaprakash Narayan’s car in the 70s when he attempted to organize people against Indira Gandhi prior to Emergency. And then began her political career as she rose to be the General Secretary of Mahila Congress in West Bengal during 1976-1980. Her quest with Congress continued as she became the youngest Member of Parliament ever in the General Elections of 1984. Having beaten Communist veteran Somnath Chatterjee in those elections, she moved on to become the General Secretary of All India Youth Congress. This 7-time MP made the Kolkata South constituency her fortress in most general elections up till 2009. Mamata Banerjee was first bestowed with Union power in 1991 when she became the Union minister of state for Human Resource Development, Youth Affairs and Sports and Women and Child Development under the PV Narsimha Rao government.
As rebellious as she was, in 1996 Banerjee tagged Congress as a ‘stooge of CPI-M’ in West Bengal. Raising her voice against hiked petroleum prices and standing up against Congress’s ignorant attitude towards West Bengal, she finally formed her own party called the Trinamool Congress in 1998. In the Lok Sabha election same year, the Trinamool Congress won 7 seats followed by one more in the 1999 elections. And Mamata Banerjee went on to become the Union Railway Minister in 1999 under the NDA rule. But after the Tehelka expose into defence deals she quit as the Railway minister and allied with Congress for 2001 Assembly elections. What followed this was the downfall of her party as it failed to grab a hold of the panchayat elections as well. And eventually, as clichÃ©d politics in India is, Trinamool Congress turned sides and allied with the NDA in 2004. She was the Coal and Mines minister till 2004 elections, where her party won only her seat.
Indian politics had ruled out Trinamool Congress and Mamata Banerjee when she grabbed eyeballs at the national scene with Nandigram and Singur. As a stern opposer of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) she protested against Left government’s orders to develop SEZ in Nandigram. She urged the Prime Minister to stop violence and land acquisition by the CPI-M and eventually the Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) was formed. Similarly, in 2006 Banerjee stood up for the land of poor villagers in Singur which was grabbed by the government for Tata Motor’s Nano car project. The Trinamool chief went on a 25-day hunger-strike in the wake of these protests atÂ EsplanadeÂ in Kolkata which was soon called off after pleads from PM Manmohan Singh. Such was the commotion of Mamata Banerjee that Trinamool Congress won 2008 civic polls and allied with Congress in 2009 grabbing 19 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state. That was the time when her supporter’s beloved ‘Didi’ coined the slogan of ‘Ma, Mati, Manush’ in the election campaign. She proclaimed to struggle for her land and her people and became the Union Railway Minister once again in 2009.
Mamata never failed to strike a chord with the people of West Bengal. Taking up issues that CPI-M remained aloof from, she always had a foot forward. Targeting industrialization concerns or issues of pension, privatization and banking sector she thwarted CPI-M chief Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee on every note. Along with Nandigram and Singur and the protests against Rizwanur Rehman’s death, Banerjee made the people of West Bengal believe that they could do way better devoid the CPI-M led Left front. Mamata Banerjee and party’s major influence in West Bengal politics was evident when a staunch Left-wing party like SUCI became an ally of the Trinamool Congress.
After ups and downs, controversies and victories, and after a string of wins in panchayat elections or municipal polls and a good show at Lok Sabha elctions, Mamata Banerjee rose to ultimate glory on May 13th 2011. Clean sweeping the Left in West Bengal Trinamool Congress alliance won 227 seats in the Assembly, Trinamool Congress alone winning 184 seats. Ex-Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee lost his seat from Jadavpur constituency and that was a proof of the fact that people of Bengal were weary of the Left dominance. Either out of that sheer weariness or out of their love for ‘Ma, Mati, Manush’, people helped Mamata Banerjee rout the red from West Bengal. Congress and Trinamool Congress reached a seat-sharing agreement with the former settling for 65 seats in the 294 member West Bengal Assembly. Now, as Mamata Banerjee promises good governance post her victory and gets ready to be sworn in as the Chief Minister, one could say it was all about ‘korbo, lorbo, jeetbo’ for Banerjee and her people.
What one needs to see is if it truly proves out to be the same for the people of West Bengal. Till then, as they say, the rest is history.