Anyone who faces struggles in their life is in a continual battle and stands firm through all the barriers will be victorious in the end. I believe Mamata Banerjee’s life experience of acute privation during her formative years as a person and as a political activist is at the root of her identification with the poor and the vulnerable.
She was born into a lower-middle-class family in a somewhat run-down neighbourhood of south Kolkata. Her family was pushed into poverty by her father’s early death, which happened when Banerjee was in her mid-teens. The large family, consisting of six brothers, two sisters and a widowed mother, subsequently faced much hardship. Unlike many others in a similar situation, she forged ahead with her education and between the mid-1970s and the early 1980s she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Calcutta University and a law diploma. Before joining politics full time, she worked as a stenographer, a primary school teacher, a private tutor and even as a salesgirl.
Mamata Banerjee’s personality is equally defined by a strongly held sense of cultural identity, she is a proud and passionate Bengali. This deep attachment to Bengali culture – the region’s history, language and traditions, underpins her politics and manifests itself in many ways.
Another, a more private manifestation is Mamata Banerjee’s immersion in the arts, music, and literary heritage of Bengal, in a manner very typical of educated middle-class Bengalis. Non-Bengalis and cosmopolitan people might find hard to understand and appreciate her cultural tastes and aesthetic sensibilities that are squarely within a traditional Bengali framework. She likes to sing Rabindranath Tagore’s songs and recite his poetry — in public and private — but her main hobby is painting and sketching. She does this prolifically, partly as a stress-relieving activity. Her elegantly spartan office in the Writers’ Buildings has a small studio attached to it, cluttered with easels and other artists’ paraphernalia.
She has risen from the grassroots of politics. She became involved in politics when she was only 15. Mamata Banerjee began her political life as an activist of the Congress party’s student wing in West Bengal in the mid-1970s as her parents were also staunch Congress supporters. During college days, she established Chhatra Parishad Union, the student’s wing of the Congress Party, and won the Chhatra Parishad elections defeating the Democratic Students’ Union of the Socialist Unity Centre of India.
She carried on with Congress Party in West Bengal serving a variety of positions within the party and in other local political organisations. She quickly made an ascent in the ranks of the local Congress group and remained the general secretary of Mahila Congress, West Bengal, from 1976 to 1980. She became one of India’s youngest parliamentarians ever, defeating veteran Communist politician Somnath Chatterjee in 1984 General Elections. Losing her seat in the 1989 general elections in an anti-Congress wave, she was re-elected in the 1991 general elections, having settled into the Calcutta South constituency. She held the South Kolkata seat during 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009 general elections.
She was appointed the Union Minister of State for Human Resources Development, Youth Affairs and Sports, and Women and Child Development in 1991 by Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao. As the sports minister, she announced that she would resign, and protested in a rally at the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata, against the Government’s indifference towards her proposal to improve sports in the country. She was discharged of her portfolios in 1993. In April 1996, she alleged that Congress was behaving as a stooge of the CPI-M in West Bengal and wanted a “Clean Congress” state. So in 1997, she left the Congress Party in West Bengal and became one of the founding members of the All India Trinamool Congress, from that time she never stopped.
Currently, she is serving the second term as the Chief Minister of Bengal and she is doing a great job as a Chief Minister. Recently, she started the Didi Ke Bolo outreach program to collect and resolve people’s grievances and suggestions. It is a very unique outreach program aiming to improve West Bengal’s people participation and engagement between the government and their citizens.
The success story of Didi Ke Bolo has started on the same day when the campaign was launched for West Bengal people’s virtue. No political campaign across the country has got this much popularity. Within a month, lakhs of people approached Mamata Banerjee by calling and registering through the website to explain their problems.
Multiple cases have been resolved till now through Didi Ke Bolo. Especially during medical emergencies, people are getting help from the government as financial assistance for medical treatment and getting basic amenities. Many patients who are unable to bear their medical expenses for the surgery are getting financial support from the government.
A heart patient was unable to get a bed at Medinipur Medical College but after calling Didi Ke Bolo their problem got resolved. Even MLAs and party workers are trying hard to resolve their problems. An MLA from Hooghly district came out in the street to solve water clogging problem in Champdani. A story came from the media houses that a Bengali couple were stuck at home during floods in Karnataka. Their relatives tried everything but nothing worked. At last, they called Didi Ke Bolo helpline number and immediately the state’s disaster management department asked Karnataka government to look into the matter and they got rescued within hours. Similarly during Kerala floods, after losing hope in local administration, 14 people got rescued after contacting Didi Ke bolo.
Mamata Banerjee has assured the people that the party is willing to work overtime to resolve their grievances as soon as possible. In 214 cases, people who are in distress reached out to Didi Ke Bolo campaign instead of calling conventional emergency helpline numbers. All these cases were resolved on priority and that is the reason why people of West Bengal have utter trust and confidence on Mamata Banerjee.