Mamata Banerjee was born a rebel and led her entire life as one. Despite becoming the Chief Minister of West Bengal, she continues to be a rebel without pause and sometimes without a real cause too.
A background of rebellion…
Mamata was a student in West Bengal in the 1970s, when the student movement was quite strong in the state. It was very fashionable to be a rebel, especially against the Congress. Mamata became a counter-rebel to that by joining the Congress.
In 1976, in just her early twenties, she became general secretary of the State Mohila Congress and in the very next year the Congress was booted out of power.
Mamata found herself in the Opposition. This status in the State lasted a whopping 34 years, when Mamata herself stormed to power in 2011.
In the 1984 general election, Mamata beat Somnath Chatterjee of the Communist old guard. In the process she became one of Lok Sabha’s youngest members ever. She was in her late twenties. But Parliament was to see many a Mamata storm.
Minister of rebellion…
In her mid-thirties Prime Minister Narasimha Rao included Mamata in his ministry in 1991. She felt that her efforts to improve sports in the country were falling on deaf ears, so she at first protested her own government in a public rally and later threatened to resign. She was sent packing in 1993.
That did not change her attitude one bit. She once wrapped herself with a black shawl and likened it to a noose at a rally. She disrupted the proceedings of the Lok Sabha in 1996 over a petroleum hike even though she was part of the ruling government.
In the 1990s, she threw her shawl at Railway Minister Ram Vilas Paswan over his “ignoring” West Bengal and also caught hold of MP Amar Singh’s collar. Singh was part of the SP at the time. At a much later stage, DP Saroj of the SP also got the same treatment. She resigned, but was later placated.
Breaking away totally…
As such incidents continued, Mamata did the ultimate act of rebellion against her party by launching the Trinamool Congress in 1997. Not before accusing the Congress of being a stooge of the CPM in West Bengal.
That gave her a chance to be part of the NDA government of 1998-2004. As Railway Minister she threatened to quit over her pet petroleum hike issue but later withdrew. She finally quit again after the Tehelka expose in 2001.
Even though she returned to the NDA as Coal Minister later on, she started protesting against the CPM government in West Bengal in a much bigger manner.
Her land protests led to her ultimately scotching Tata’s Singur plans for their pet Nano project. Trinamool created a ruckus in the West Bengal Assembly as protests and strikes became the order of the day.
Nandigram was another area which became a major flashpoint.
The CM era…
When Mamata finally took over as West Bengal CM in 2011, one would think that she would calm down, but that just didn’t happen.
As part of the central UPA Government, she opposed the Congress on a host of issues including the Teesta River talks with Bangladesh, Lokpal, FDI in Retail, petroleum hikes and has indirectly threatened to withdraw her support on many an occasion.
So much so that the Congress is wooing the support of the SP to stay in power at the Centre.
When Mamata took over in West Bengal, the law and order situation in the State was supposed to improve, but she has been bogged down by controversies. First came a high profile hospital fire which she alleged was a conspiracy and then a gangrape case which she termed as “fake”.
Her spat with her own Trinamool Congress member Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi bordered on the theatre of the absurd. Everyone knows that Trivedi was Minister at Mamata’s pleasure.
Instead of making sure Trivedi didn’t hike prices before he presented the budget, she went on a collision course over fare hikes after he presented it. Trivedi finally had to resign, but not before a big drama.
Earlier also when she was Railways Minister herself after a major train mishap, she played her pet conspiracy theory card.
But to give her credit, Mamata is self-made and almost single-handedly ended the Left’s 34-year rule in West Bengal. After all this, she is just 57, quite a young age by Indian political standards!
With the Congress’s national support rapidly eroding and there being no corresponding BJP wave, the spectre of a Third Front regional Prime Minister being sworn in after the 2014 general elections looms large.
If that PM happens to be Mamata Banerjee, then one will not quite know what to expect, except that she will keep rebelling against one thing after the other!