Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free, Where words come out from the depth of truth, Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
–Rabindranath Tagore (1900)
Mamata Banerjee, widely known and called as Didi, was born on January 05, 1955. Mamata is entirely self-made, with no political genes in her whatsoever. At a young age of 9, she lost her ‘refugee’ father. Starting as a young Congressi, she moved up the political ladder. Her firebrand politics arouses admiration, her affable personality attracts love and her people-centric politics makes her a true mass leader. Even now she has simple needs, she travels in a Santro and wears a white-cotton saree and rubber slippers.
The year was 1983, twenty-eight-year-old Mamata Banerjee was getting into the rhythm of active politics, and the All India Congress Committee was in full session in Kolkata. Mamata even as a young girl had an appetite to be at the top one day. From the very start, she has been known to evoke strong emotions. Her fans worship her fearlessness and her simple ascetic lifestyle.
In the 1984 general election, Ms. Banerjee became one of India’s youngest ever MPs, defeating veteran communist candidate Somnath Chatterjee. Even at this early stage of her career, she proved her ability to make an impact on the national political stage while simultaneously strengthening her West Bengal power base. She lost her seat in the 1989 election, only to bounce back in the 1991 elections to become the youngest Minister of State for Sports and Youth Affairs in the PV Narasimha Rao government.
A maverick woman from the slums of Kalighat who fought both the Congress and the Left at the same time. After falling out with the Congress Party, she formed her own party, Trinamool Congress, and successfully took on the Left Front government to redefine the more than a century old domination of Bhadralok politics of Bengal and reshaped the state’s identity. In 2011, Mamata Banerjee came to power in West Bengal, ending 35 years of Communist rule in the state. She single-handedly wrecked the Left bastion in the state.
August 16, 1991, a 25-year-old Mamata was leading a youth Congress rally at Hazra. She was high with confidence, just having defeated Somnath Chatterjee from the Jadavpur constituency. Unaware of the impact it would have in the political history of Bengal, the rally was stopped and brutally attacked by Left Front workers. Mamata was almost beaten to death, she was severely injured and was admitted to the hospital. This marked the beginning of the end for the communists in Bengal. When she came out of the hospital, Mamata was a much stronger political entity than before. A relentless fighter against the CPIM, Banerjee never gave up and bided her time. Her opportunity came when Nandigram and Singur exploded on the national scene. Since then it has been a story of her continuous rise.
For more than 30 years, Mamata Banerjee was a street fighter organizing protests to defend the unorganized poor, the marginal, and the oppressed especially in the urban centers of Bengal. She faced the brutality of the state’s repressive apparatuses but never gave up her struggle. On more than one occasion she gave up her ministerial position in the union government to uphold popular causes.
May 13, 2011, turned out to be a green day across Bengal. Every corner of Bengal showered slogans like ‘victory, Trinamool Congress er victory’. The party under the leadership of Didi has swept the assembly elections and people went out to the streets to embrace the massive victory. It was ‘Poribartan (change)’ that Mamata Banerjee has promised and it was poribartan that the voters had delivered in favor of Didi. Mamata and her party topped while the opposition toppled. The people of Bengal ensured that there is no coming back for the longest-serving government in the country.
Since coming to power, on the one hand, she has assiduously built and nurtured the major social support bases of the left and on the other hand, she has challenged and redefined the century-old hegemony of Bhadralok politics and reshaped Bengal’s identity.
She also started a series of direct benefit programmes among the poor and generally in the districts. This has included revolutionary moves like distributing cycles to every student, monetary incentives to girl students, schemes for farmers, folk artists, for the sick and the destitute, etc. Unlike the left, these schemes generate a sense of obligation and personal loyalty and the government is seen as a patron caring for the suffering. Didi has the blessings of the people. She has further ensured that the quality and efficiency of government services be improved so that the people actually receive the rewards meant for them. Didi’s brainchild, ‘Kanyashree’ scheme has also received recognition from the United Nations (UN).
A dream was achieved, the green wave stopped the red and saffron wave. From fighting in the streets to fighting the ballot, from biting the bullet to biting opposition criticism, Mamata Banerjee has seen it all and thus the left was left out of Bengal. The Didi of Trinamool Congress is now the only hope of Bengal and after this victory, her credibility has reached its peak. The red bastion left red-faced and as usual, Didi attributed the win to the ‘MaaMatiManush’ of Bengal and announced to take oath in the streets, where she came from. She termed it as the victory of the people and democracy, although people voted for her and the verdict was clearly for her.
By sheer hard work and struggle, she emerged as a leader and representative of the people. Mamata belonged to the people, she was poor, spoke the language of the street, but at the same time could take on the might of capitalism. Her tough authoritarian style actually made her more credible among the masses; she could deliver and make things happen. It gave people hope and a sense of power and pride.
Across Bengal, it’s the same picture, people wanted change, people wanted Didi and now when they have a Chief Minister like Mamata Banerjee, there is no stopping them. For now, it’s ‘Green Bengal’, for the generation that has ceased to believe that the left was always right, it’s party time in West Bengal, and the Daughter of Indian Democracy stands tall.
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