NANDIGRAM: Mamata Banerjee, the indomitable fighter clad in a white sari, is a writer, poet and painter who had ended the decades-long rule of the Left Front but after two successive terms faces a major challenge to her political career.
Striving to prove that "Bangla nijer meyekei chaye" (Bengal wants its own daughter), she continues her stride in the political spectrum of the nation that began in 1975 making the headlines by dancing on the car of the most influential leaders of that time Jayaprakash Narayan as a mark of protest.
Forty-six years have passed since then; her fighting spirits continue to shine in Indian politics. She is 'Nation's Didi' Mamata Banerjee.
She became the chief minister of West Bengal in 2011 by ending the 34-year-long CPI(M) regime, one of the longest-serving elected governments in the world. Now after ruling the state for two successive terms, the 2021 poll battle is surely not a cakewalk for her. It is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that trespassed her dominion after gaining overwhelming results from the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. And, the emergence of the Left-Congress-ISF alliance has made the situation more complicated for her.
Banerjee endorses her governance as the rule of three 'M's, that is, 'Maa', 'Mati' and 'Manush' (mother, soil and people). But, the Bengal elections have another 3M factor this time, that is, 'Mamata', 'Modi' and 'Muslim'. So, Banerjee's challenge is to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity in Bengal at one side and regain her support base of the minority community that might step out with the Left-Congress-ISF alliance.
Now making the battle of power more interesting, Mamata has chosen Nandigram over her home turf Bhabanipur seat this time to test her fate in the 2021 elections. It was the agitation in Nandigram and Singur against the Left government's land acquisition policies that made Mamata Banerjee the Chief Minister of West Bengal.
Now not just Bengal, but the country's eye is on Nandigram that will witness the most high-profile contest on April 1 with the chief minister taking on her former ministerial colleague Suvendu Adhikari, who had joined the BJP in December last year.
Further, Banerjee's poll campaign this time got a new dimension with a wheelchair after she suffered an injury earlier this month while campaigning in Nandigram.
Not to mention, the West Bengal Chief Minister spared no poll stage to launch scathing attacks on Prime Minister Modi. However, the Modi-Mamata battle was quite visible even before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. She played an instrumental role in bringing together all opposition parties against the Centre prior to the 2019 general elections. The seventh-term MP also has been among the first key figures who heavily criticised the central government in issues starting from demonetisation to Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and lockdown to fuel prices. Her fighting spirit and mass appeal have made her one the tallest opposition figures in the current political arena.
Mamata Banerjee started her political career as a Youth Congress worker in the 1970s. She quickly rose the ranks and became the general secretary of Mahila Congress and later All India Youth Congress. In 1984 she was elected as a member of parliament in the 8th Lok Sabha becoming one of India's youngest parliamentarians. She founded the All India Trinamool Congress in 1997 after a disagreement with Congress.
Mamata Banerjee worked with three Prime Ministers including PV Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr Manmohan Singh. She had been a Union Minister in both National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments and held portfolios like Human Resource Development, Youth Affairs and Sports, Women and Child Development, Coal and Mines and the Railways. Notably, she was the first woman to become a railway minister in the country. The Time Magazine named her among the 100 most influential people in the world in 2012.
Hailing from a lower-middle-class family, Mamata Banerjee worked as a milk booth vendor to battle poverty. Her father passed away due to the lack of treatment when she was just 17. The fighter in her never let the barriers dominate her. She continued her education and earned a Bachelor's degree in History, a Master's degree in Islamic History and degrees in Education and Law from the University of Calcutta. She also worked as a stenographer and a private tutor before joining full-time politics.Another disposition of Mamata Banerjee is her minimalist lifestyle. Despite being the Chief Minister, she still lives in her ancestral terracotta-tiled roof house at Kolkata's Harish Chatterjee Street. White cotton sarees having mono-colour borders and slippers are all that define the fashion statement of Mamata Banerjee.
The West Bengal Chief Minister is also a self-taught painter, poet and writer. She has authored more than 100 books. She is also tech-savvy and remains active on social media. The Trinamool Supremo is also known for her walkathons or marches. Here it needs to be mentioned that she walks five-six kilometres on a treadmill every day. When it comes to evening snack time, she likes to have tea, puffed rice and 'aloo chop'.
The second phase of the West Bengal Assembly polls is scheduled for April 1. In phase-II, 30 seats covering a segment of South 24 Parganas, Bankura, Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur will go to polls to decide the fate of 171 candidates including 19 women.
Meanwhile, the first phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections concluded with an estimated 79.79 per cent voter turnout on Saturday.
In the first phase, 30 seats covering all Assembly constituencies from the districts of Purulia and Jhargram and a segment of Bankura, Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur went to polls.