By Baidurya Sen:
November 2006. A woman draped in a white sari and wearing sandals on her feet marches towards the town of Singur in Bengal’s Hoogly district. The reason being to protest the CPI(M)’s forcible acquisition of fertile land for Tata’s Nano manufacturing plant. But she is stopped on her way and humiliated by the police forces as they force her to make her way back. What follows next, is nothing short of a revolution which will make its way permanently in the pages of history.
Didi, as this woman is fondly known as is none other than West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. She has been featured in the Time’s Magazine 100 most influential people in 2012. Truly her rise from a middle class family woman who didn’t have any political patronage or godfather, to one of the most actively influencing faces in Indian political scenario bears admiration and praise.
But even though Didi is loved by all for her humble and simple ways, she is also looked upon as an increasingly hot-tempered politician who doesn’t think much before she speaks, who uses her power and clout sometimes to the detriment of the nation’s policy decisions and someone who cannot be trusted, even though she is clean and honest. It is these characteristics which are so contradictory in nature and also so ‘un-politician like’ that brings a significant amount of enigma and wonder in Didi’s personality. So today let us take a look at Didi and try to find out why indeed she is one of the most influential people in today’s world.
Didi- the Destroyer
Bengal was reeling under 34 years of dictatorial democracy under the Left front regime. Though the Left front came to power with a massive mandate in Bengal after defeating Congress in the year of 1977, it became corrupt and autocratic with years down the line. As they say, ‘Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Now as to why the people of Bengal chose them year after year inspite of Bengal being one of the most lagging states in India, is beyond the scope of this article. Mamata Banerjee, though seen as a prominent politician in Indian context from as early as 1980’s when she was a minister in Narasimha Rao’s government; she was always sidelined and ‘soft-bullied’ by the mighty Communist government throughout her period in the opposition benches. Didi might not be ever able to forget the day of August 16, 1990 when she was assaulted in Hazra crossing of Kolkata and was critically injured with a skull fracture by CPI(M) cadres for leading a Congress rally. It was a brazen attempt by the CPI(M) to claim her life. The Communist party had dominated every part of life in Bengal. From making sure the police forces are replete with party workers to an unsaid rule that professors in Government colleges had to owe allegiance to the party to get the job, they had spread their vicious tentacles in all walks of life. Mamata Banerjee emerged after the Singur and Nandigram protests, stronger than ever. People had by then realized the level of arrogance and social disconnect among the communists. Also Didi’s mass appeal was in stark contrast to the CPI(M) leaders’ elitist nature. Finally in the year of 2011, in the state elections Mamata decimated the strong and powerful CPI(M) single-handedly and came to power in Bengal for the first time with a thumping majority. Almost all prominent leaders of the Left Front lost in the election and it was shaken to the core as it came about throwing away errant leaders who they made responsible for the loss. It’s leaving CM, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya retreated to a shell away from the public life. Mamata Banerjee, truly destroyed the Communist government all alone. Such a tale as hers can be a stuff of legend in the decades to come.
Didi- the Creator
Mamata Banerjee was always looked as a sister or a mother figure. With her slogan of ‘Maa Maati Manush’ which emphasizes that her primary concern is her motherland, loyalty to the place where she lives and welfare of the people, she is truly looked upon as a god-sent by thousands of people in West Bengal. Just when the state was going through gradual stagnation, acute economic crisis and wanton corruption, Mamata emerged as the saviour with ‘poriborton’- the change. Mamata had been in the central ministry for significant periods in the past. During her tenure of railway ministry, she introduced the ‘Duronto’ trains which travels almost non-stop between two stations. Though her populist policies helped the common people sometimes, it also made the railways run in debt. Didi promised to usher in good governance in Bengal and create a prosperous place to live in. She has already earmarked a slew of projects which will generate thousands of jobs for the youth. Though such claims can never be taken at face value until such project is completed, but still a lot of constructive work can truly be seen around nowadays in Bengal. One big example is the Metro railways project. Mamata has made plans by which virtually almost the whole of Kolkata will be connected by Metro once it sees the completion. And the project is running at an impressive pace. She has been stringent with the government employees who she blamed lacked work ethics. Nowadays workers in Writer’s building thinks twice before giving consent to any strike, actively or passively. Mamata truly is the creator of hopes, infrastructure and employment. Though I admit, in the last two points, it is too early a call.
Didi- the Sustainer?
Amidst all the high hopes raised and the recent controversies, the only aspect to which we all are eager to look ahead is that whether Mamata will be able to sustain the people’s hopes who have brought her to power with thumping majority or will she sustain people’s growing anguish that nothing significant in change has been brought about. Though it is agreed, that it is too early to judge her in 11 months legacy which she inherited after 34 years; yet she ought to be more diplomatic and disciplined in her approach to governance. She should know that as much as people love her for her benevolent and approachable image, they also hate her for her characteristic whims. And before we, the media increase our attack with more acid in every odd incident in Bengal, we should practice more restraint as Didi is the only hope to reverse Bengal from its retrogressive path and also because there is no other viable alternative to her party. Let us see if she can sustain the new projects on development, after all, she is none other than one of the most influential people in today’s world.