Giant killer Mamata’s tryst with three dates

Perseverance and courage were going to distinguish her from her fellow travellers and that she has proved time and again in her more than 37 years of legislative political career…reports Saibal Gupta.

May 2, 2021 is perhaps one of the three dates that Mamata Banerjee will remember all her life, not just because she became the Chief Minister of West Bengal for the third time in a row by defeating the all-powerful BJP single-handedly, but because her tryst with dates such as this is part of her historical evolution to weave a political narrative that she is in true sense a ‘Giant Killer’.

It was in 1984 when Rajiv Gandhi and Arun Nehru threw a challenge to an aggressive young woman demanding a ticket to fight the parliamentary polls in the post-Indira election, and they offered her an impossible Jadavpur – a constituency so decisively red that a non-Communist would not even dream of contesting from there. Anybody else would have politely turned down the offer, but not Mamata Banerjee.

She returned to Kolkata, preparing to wage a war against CPM stalwart Somnath Chatterjee with her shrill voice, rubber sandals and ‘jhola’ in which she carried her world. The rest is history.

She can never forget December 29, 1984 when the gutsy woman, a raw street-fighter undeterred by the mammoth election machinery of an organised CPM, defeated the unassailable Chatterjee in her first political battle and announced her arrival as a politician.

Perseverance and courage were going to distinguish her from her fellow-travellers and that she has proved time and again in her more than 37 years of legislative political career.

What singles out Banerjee from the other politicians is her indomitable spirit. Nobody ever thought that after being bludgeoned and brought down by a CPM thug at the Hazra crossing in south Kolkata, she would be able to come back. But she bounced back with more vigour and aggression.

Through the 90s, she toyed with charting a separate path of her own, pushed to the brink by a host of Congress leaders, most of them rudderless and devoid of new ideas.

When even the high command in Delhi refused to let her assume the state unit’s leadership, she adopted the mantra of ‘Ekla Cholo Re’ (walk on your path alone). In 1998, she broke away and launched the Trinamool Congress. Her party won seven seats.

This was not the only instance but all through her life she has proved to be a path-breaking politician who has reacted more on impulse than on political doctrine and diplomatic calculations.

That is the reason perhaps she has occasionally been termed as erratic and crazy, but her apparent political naivety has been best termed by one of her close cabinet ministers — “There is method in her madness” and that political madness is perhaps the nucleus of her political identity.

That is the reason why she can easily leave her convoy and walk alone in a tribal village in West Midnapore or brew tea at a village stall during her visit to the state’s coastal town Digha or share ‘muri’ with the police constable waiting at her door.

“The wait at the antechamber or the halo of politicians is very much missing in Mamata Banerjee. She is the girl next door where she prefers to share her personal details with everybody,” said another close aide of Banerjee, who has been with her from her early days.

Naturally, the Trinamool slogan for this election — ‘Bangla nijer meyeke chai’ (Bengal wants her own daughter) — matched her personality.

What seemed so impossible — to oust the Left from power — became possible. She single-handedly wrecked the red bastion in West Bengal, ending the Left Front’s uninterrupted 34-year-old rule after perfecting the art of the impossible.

It was May 13, 2011, another date which she would perhaps not forget. That was the day when the raw street fighter was crowned as an administrator.

For the last 10 years, she has been the Chief Minister of West Bengal and she has broken protocols — contested the Central schemes and implemented her state-sponsored programmes, stayed absent during Prime Minister’s meeting with CMs, created diplomatic tension by going against the Central decision and denied sharing water of Teesta with Bangladesh — but one thing she has done with all diligence – she has been rooted to the ground and listened to the voices of the people.

She has created schemes like Swasthya Sathi – promising healthcare to all the citizens of the state, Kanyashree – giving education and freedom to women, and Khadya Sathi that promises food for all and that has perhaps paid her off.

She would perhaps never forget May 2, 2021 that eulogised her as a successful Chief Minister.

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