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Tag Archives: Mamata Banerjee

As a child growing up in the Calcutta of 90’s, I so so (as they say it in 2010!) liked Mamata Banerjee. And I had my reasons.

My child-like, pre-liberalised faculties followed simple reasoning before arriving at the conclusion: She was, after all, a source of unlimited joy for kids like me as her hectic political work would ensure that we would be blessed with at least 2, if not more, unaccounted holidays in the school monthly almanac. Many intimidating physics/chemistry class tests would get caught in a time warp, thanks to her sudden mood swings which included calling at-the-drop-of-a-hat bandhs, disrupting road and rail traffic, making sure her cronies tried to bring life to a standstill. Unfinished homework would get a breather of a day (at least!) before they saw completion. Beat that! In pre-Internet days, a Friday bandh call was all that was required to make a quick dash to Digha or Mukundapur. And I am sure that even state government employees, with their allegiance to the powers-that-be, secretly blessed her for her ‘good’ deed.

More than a decade has gone by.

A lot of water has passed under the (political) bridge. Didi split from the Undivided Congress Family and went solo even as she invoked the spirit of Indira, Rajiv and Sonia. Weaning away from the tutelage of the Congress in 1997, Didi set up her own shop with a motive of ‘providing an alternative’ to the wrongdoings of the Left and the general incapacity of the Congress in Bengal. But there has never been any ambiguity about the ends that Ms Banerjee wants or has in mind: Of sitting pretty on the throne of all that jazz they call Bengal. And it is no secret that she has had her priorities in place for a fairly long time, one must say. Too long, is what others (read: political pundits) feel.

Public memory is short. And Ms Banerjee knows that very well. She also knows that Gen-Y living in the Buddha’s Calcutta won’t be able to recall the infamous Hazra attack or the numerous other episodes that she’s gone through along with her party colleagues — some from the Congress and others from her present outfit, Trinamool Congress. They would require prodding, their grey cells would need to be familiarised with Bengal’s recent political history before they can see what she has tried to achieve for their state. And has failed to do.

Nothing much has changed for the temperamental Didi – the way she functions/performs or rather doesn’t. An actor playing to the gallery, Ms Banerjee’s mood swings have always kind of preceded her. She flirted with the Vajpayee-led NDA government in 1999, became the Railway Minster, and then walked out when the infamous Tehelka expose of corruption started tailing the government. Even if she was angsty over being out of power, hence public recall, she camouflaged it. When the NDA didn’t return to power in 2004, she didn’t bother to kiss and make up with the grand old man of Indian politics. Instead, she went full throttle and the results were for all to see- from a single Lok Sabha win in 2004, Ms Banerjee had gone up to 19 in the 2009 polls. And the prodigal-but-rebellious daughter decided to join the Congress fold, albeit on her own terms. And what better portfolio than the Railways to welcome the belligerent child back home!

What both 10, Janpath (Sonia Gandhi) and 7, RCR (Manmohan Singh) failed to envisage was Ms Banerjee’s divorce from the politics of greater good. If tyranny of distance exists anywhere, it is right here – in Ms Banerjee’s constituency, with the Union minister and her entourage spending all their available time in West Bengal in the run-up to the Assembly polls next year. Attending cabinet meetings ain’t quite her cup of tea – for she is missing in action in the Capital and can be spotted miles away in Calcutta and its suburbs, mobilising public support for the 2011 elections – an election where Ms Banerjee will score well simply because the people of Bengal will be strapped for choice.

Indian Railways is the lifeline of the Indian janta – it may not be aspirational but it sure is utilitarian, and highly so. It is a ministry that requires undivided attention and ministerial intervention from time-to-time. It also needs a pan-India vision (a trait which has been historically missing in most Railway ministers, each guarding their own territory) and can definitely not function without that.

This in Jhargram, yet again, has brought to fore that there is problem of plenty that is plaguing Didi. She has too much on her plate at the moment as the civic polls are slated to happen on Sunday. For Ms Banerjee, all roads in Bengal now have only one destination.

And she’s leaving no stone unturned as the state, (literally) takes over the nation.

Good for her, I say. But then do make way for someone who could cart the wheels of the Railways without such indifference short-term vision and perhaps, with a little more passion.

Is that a lot to ask for?

(P.S.: For me, the city is still Calcutta. Hence, the title and mention in the post :-)Apologies if I have offended neo-converts…)