Mamata Banerjee

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Mamata Banerjee
মমতা বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়
Portrait of Mamata Banerjee
8th Chief Minister of West Bengal
Incumbent
Assumed office
20 May 2011
Governor M. K. Narayanan
D. Y. Patil(Acting)
Keshari Nath Tripathi
Preceded by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
Minister of Railways
In office
22 May 2009 – 19 May 2011
Preceded by Lalu Prasad Yadav
Succeeded by Dinesh Trivedi
Member of Parliament
for Kolkata Dakshin
In office
1991–2011
Preceded by Biplab Dasgupta
Succeeded by Subrata Bakshi
Member of Parliament
for Jadavpur
In office
1984–1989
Preceded by Somnath Chatterjee
Succeeded by Malini Bhattacharya
Member of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly for Bhabanipur
Preceded by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
Personal details
Born (1955-01-05) 5 January 1955 (age 59)[1]
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Nationality Indian
Political party Indian National Congress (1970–1997)
Trinamool Congress
(1997–present)
Residence Harish Chatterjee Street, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Alma mater University of Calcutta
Profession Politician
Religion Hinduism
Website Mamata Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee (Bengali: মমতা বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায় Mômota Bôndyopadhyay; born 5 January 1955[2]) is an Indian politician who has been Chief Minister of West Bengal since 2011. She is the first woman to hold the office. Banerjee founded the party All India Trinamool Congress (AITMC or TMC) in 1997 and became its chairperson, after separating from the Indian National Congress.[3] She is often referred to as Didi (meaning elder sister in Bengali). In 2011 Banerjee pulled off a landslide victory for the TMC Congress alliance in West Bengal by defeating the 34-year old Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front government, until then the world's longest-serving democratically-elected communist government.[4][5][6]

Banerjee previously served as the Minister of Railways twice and is also the first woman Railway Minister of India,[7] Minister of Coal, and Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Department of Youth Affairs and Sports and Women and Child Development in the cabinet of the Indian government.[8] She opposed forceful land acquisition for industrialisation by the then communist government in West Bengal for Special Economic Zones at the cost of agriculturalists and farmers.[9]

In 2012, Time magazine named her one of the "100 Most influential People in the World".[10] In September 2012 Bloomberg Markets magazine listed her among the 50 most influential people in the world of finance.[11] The mercurial TMC leader was voted in May 2013 as India's most honest politician in an internal poll by members of India Against Corruption, India's largest anti-corruption coalition.[12]

Early life and career[edit]

Banerjee was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata), West Bengal in a Bengali family[13] to Promileswar Banerjee and Gayetri Devi.[14] She grew up in a lower middle class family. Banerjee's father died due to lack of medical treatment, when she was 17.[15]

In 1970, Banerjee completed the higher secondary board examination from Deshbandhu Sishu Sikshalay.[15] Banerjee graduated with an honours degree in History from the Jogamaya Devi College, a Graduate women's college in southern Kolkata.[16][17] Later she earned a master's degree in Islamic History from the University of Calcutta. This was followed by a degree in education from the Shri Shikshayatan College. She also earned a law degree from the Jogesh Chandra Chaudhuri Law College, Kolkata.[18] When Mamata was elected to the 10th Lok Sabha in 1991, she mentioned in her biography to have obtained a PhD degree from East Georgia University, USA. It was later alleged that such a university didn't exist. To avoid the political controversy, Mamata stopped mentioning this degree subsequently. She was honored with DLitt from Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology.[19]

Banerjee became involved with politics when she was only 15. While studying at the Jogamaya Devi College established Chhatra Parishad Unions, the student's wing of the Congress (I) Party, defeating the Democratic Students’ Union of the Socialist Unity Centre of India.[15] She continued in Congress (I) Party in West Bengal serving a variety of positions within the party and in other local political organizations. As a young woman in the 1970s, she quickly rose in the ranks[clarification needed] to become the general secretary of the state Mahila Congress (1976–80).[9]

Throughout her political life Banerjee has maintained an austere lifestyle, always dressing in simple traditional Bengali cotton sarees called 'tant', while wearing none of cosmetics or jewellery and always has a cotton bag slung on her shoulder. She has remained single throughout her life.[20][21]

Banerjee is a self-taught painter and a poet.[22][23]

Early political career[edit]

Indian National Congress[edit]

Mamata Banerjee during inauguration of the 'Infocom 2011' exhibition at Milan mela ground, Kolkata.

Banerjee started her political career in the Congress party, and as a young woman in the 1970s, she quickly rose in the ranks of the local Congress group, and remained the General Secretary of Mahila Congress (I), West Bengal, from 1976 to 1980.[24] In the 1984 general election, Banerjee became one of India's youngest parliamentarians ever, beating veteran Communist politician Somnath Chatterjee, from the Jadavpur parliamentary Constituency in West Bengal. She also became the General-Secretary of the Indian Youth Congress. Losing her seat in 1989 in an anti-Congress wave, she was back in 1991 general elections, having settled into the Calcutta South constituency. She retained the Kolkata South seat in the 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009 general elections.[25]

In the Rao government formed in 1991, Mamata Banerjee was made the Union Minister of State for Human Resources Development, Youth Affairs and Sports, and Women and Child Development. As the sports minister, she announced that she would resign, and protested in a rally at the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata, against Government's indifference towards her proposal to improve sports in the country.[26] She was discharged of her portfolios in 1993. In April 1996, she alleged that Congress was behaving as a stooge of the CPI-M in West Bengal. She claimed that she was the lone voice of reason and wanted a "clean Congress".[citation needed]

Trinamool Congress[edit]

Mamata Banerjee speaking to the elected members and party workers at Bongaon stadium after the West Bengal panchayat elections.

In 1997, Mamata Banerjee left the Congress Party in West Bengal and established the All India Trinamool Congress. It quickly became the primary opposition party to the long-standing Communist government in the state.[why?] On 11 December 1998, she controversially held a Samajwadi Party MP, Daroga Prasad Saroj, by the collar and dragged him out of the well of the Lok Sabha to prevent him from protesting against the Women's Reservation Bill.[27]

In 1999, she joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and was allocated the Railways Ministry.[25]

Railway Minister (first tenure)[edit]

In 2002, Mamata Banerjee presented her first Railway Budget. In it she fulfilled many of her promises to her home state West Bengal.[28] She introduced a new biweekly New Delhi-Sealdah Rajdhani Express train and four express trains connecting various parts of West Bengal, namely the Howrah-Purulia Rupasi Bangla Express, Sealdah-New Jalpaiguri Express, Shalimar-Adra Aranyak Express and the Sealdah-Amritsar Superfast Express (weekly).[28] She also increased the frequency of the Pune-Howrah Azad Hind Express and extension of at least three express train services. Work on the Digha-Howrah Express service was also hastened during her brief tenure.[29]

She also focused on developing tourism, enabling the Darjeeling-Himalayan section with two additional locomotives and proposing the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited. She also commented that India should play a pivotal role in the Trans-Asian Railway and that rail links between Bangladesh and Nepal would be reintroduced. In all, she introduced 19 new trains for the 2000–2001 fiscal year.[29]

In 2000, she and Ajit Kumar Panja resigned to protest the hike in petroleum prices,[30] and then withdrew their resignations without any reason. [clarification needed] [31]

Split with NDA[edit]

In early 2001, after the Tehelka expose,[32] Banerjee walked out of the NDA cabinet and allied with the Congress Party for West Bengal's 2001 elections, in protest of the corruption charges levelled by Tehelka.com against senior ministers of the Government.

Return to NDA[edit]

She returned to the NDA government in January 2004, and held the Coal and Mines portfolio till the Indian general election of 20 May 2004, in which she was the only Trinamool Congress member to win a Parliament seat from West Bengal.[25]

On 20 October 2005, she protested against the forceful land acquisition and the atrocities[clarification needed] on local farmers in the name of industrial development policy of the Buddhadev Bhattacharya government in West Bengal. Benny Santoso, CEO of the Indonesia-based Salim Group had pledged a large investment to West Bengal, and the West Bengal government had given him farmland in Howrah, sparking protest. In soaking rain, Banerjee and other Trinamool Congress members stood in front of the Taj Hotel where Santoso had arrived, shut out by the police. Later, she and her supporters followed Santoso's convoy. A planned "black flag" protest was avoided, when the government had Santoso arrive three hours ahead of schedule.[33][34]

Mamata Banerjee suffered further setbacks in 2005, when her party lost control of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and the sitting mayor defected from her party.[citation needed] In 2006, the Trinamool Congress was defeated in West Bengal's Assembly Elections, losing more than half of its sitting members.

On 4 August 2006, Banerjee hurled her resignation papers at the deputy speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal in Lok Sabha. The provocation was the speaker (Somnath Chatterjee)'s rejection of her adjournment motion on illegal infiltration by Bangladeshis in West Bengal.[35][36][37] The motion was turned down by the speaker on the ground that it was not in the proper format.[38][39]

In November 2006, Banerjee was forcibly stopped on her way to Singur for a rally against a proposed Tata Motors car project. Mamata reached the West Bengal assembly and protested at the venue. She addressed a press conference at the assembly and announced a 12-hour shutdown by her party on Friday.[40] The Trinamul Congress MLAs protested by damaging furniture and microphones in the West Bengal Assembly.[40][41] A major strike was called on 14 December 2006.

Alliance with UPA[edit]

Before the 2009 parliamentary elections she forged an alliance with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by Indian National Congress. The alliance won 26 seats. Banerjee joined the central cabinet as the railway minister (second tenure). In the 2010 Municipal Elections in West Bengal, TMC won Kolkata Municipal Corporation in a margin of 62 seats. TMC also won Bidhan Nagar Corporation in 16-9 seats margin.[citation needed] In 2011, Banerjee won a sweeping majority and assumed the position of chief minister of the state of West Bengal. Her party ended the 34-year rule of the Left Front.

TMC threatened to withdraw support from UPA in protest of the governments decision to allow FDI in retail markets and also against hike of petrol diesel prices and gave 72hrs for withdrawing the Reforms. On 18 Sep 2012 Evening Mamata Banarjee declared her party has withdrawn support from UPA and ran independently. The TMC's Minister submitted his resignation on Friday 21 Sep 2012.[citation needed]

Nandigram protests[edit]

Main article: Nandigram violence

The Nandigram violence was an incident in Nandigram, West Bengal where, on the orders of the Left Front government, more than 4,000 heavily armed police stormed the rural area in the district of Purba Medinipur with the aim of stamping out protests against the West Bengal government’s plans to expropriate 10,000 acres (40 km2) of land for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to be developed by the Indonesian-based Salim Group. The police shot dead at least 14 villagers and wounded 70 more.

The SEZ controversy started when the government of West Bengal decided that the Salim Group of Indonesia[42][43][44] would set up a chemical hub under the SEZ policy at Nandigram. The Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee, an organisation formed by the Maoists and Trinamul Congress, took over the administration of the area, and all the roads to the villages were cut off. Thousands of supporters of the Left parties got attacked and were made refugees to be accommodated at shelter camps.[45] A front-page story in the Kolkata newspaper, The Telegraph, on 4 January 2007 was headlined, "False alarm sparks clash". According to the newspaper that village council meeting at which the alleged land seizure was to be announced was actually a meeting to declare Nandigram a "clean village", that is, a village in which all the households had access to toilet facilities. The BUPC cutoff the roads entering the village and the entire area remained out of the control of the district civil and police administration. The State Government announced the canncellation of the project in the first week of March. But the situation showed no improvement. The administration was directed to break the Maoist-backed [clarification needed] BUPC's control of Nandigram and a massive operation with at least 3,000 policemen was launched on 14 March 2007. However, prior information of the impending action had leaked out to the BUPC who amassed a crowd of roughly 5,000 villagers at the entry points into Nandigram to oppose the entry of police and assault them. In the resulting mayhem, at least 14 people were killed.[46] The CBI report on the incident clearly vindicated CPI(M)'s stand that the firing was not by the order of Buddhadeb but by the police to disperse the unlawful assembly after everything else in the standard operating procedure failed[47][48] A large number of intellectuals protested on the streets[clarification needed].[49][50][51] Mamata Banerjee wrote letters to the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil to stop the alleged violence promoted by CPI(M) in Nandigram.

2009 Indian election[edit]

Trinamool Congress performed well in the 2009 parliamentary election, bagging 19 MP seats, among them 5 women (including Banerjee), reiterating its faith in the Women's Reservation Bill. Its allies in congress and SUCI also got six and one MP seats respectively marking the best performance by any opposition party in West Bengal since the start of the left regime. Until then, the Congress victory of 16 seats in 1984, a sympathy vote after the death of Indira Gandhi, was considered their best show in opposition.

Railway Minister (second tenure)[edit]

In 2009, Mamata Banerjee became the railway minister for the second time. Her focus was again on West Bengal.[52]

She led Indian Railways to introduce a number of non-stop Duronto Express trains connecting large cities[53] besides a number of other passenger trains,[54] including women-only trains.[55] [56][57] The Anantnag-Qadigund railway line of the Kashmir railway that has been in the making since 1994[58] was inaugurated during her tenure.[59] She also declared the 25-km long line-1 of Kolkata Metro as an independent Zone of the Indian Railways[60] for which she was criticised.[61]

Reuters reported that "Her two-year record as railway minister has been heavily criticized for running the network into more debt to pay for populist measures such as more passenger trains."[62] The Indian Railways became loss-making in her two-year tenure.[63] Even before stepping down as railway minister to become the Chief Minister of West Bengal, she said "The way I am leaving the railways behind, it will run well. Don’t worry, my successor will get all my support”.[64] Her nominee Dinesh Trivedi from her party succeeded her as railway minister.

Chief Minister of West Bengal[edit]

In 2011, the All India Trinamool Congress along with SUCI[citation needed] and the Indian National Congress won the West Bengal legislative assembly election against the incumbent Left Alliance by securing 227 seats. TMC won 184 seats with the INC winning 42 seats and the SUCI secured one seat. This marked the end of the longest ruling democratically elected Communist party in the world.

Mamata Banerjee at Milan Mela ground after inauguration of the 'Infocom 2011' an IT fair in Kolkata.
Mamata Banerjee takes the oath of office as Chief Minister administered by Governor M. K. Narayanan on 20 May 2011.

Banerjee was sworn in as Chief Minister of West Bengal on 20 May 2011. As the first female Chief Minister of West Bengal, one of her first decisions was to return 400 acres of land to Singur farmers. "The cabinet has decided to return 400 acres to unwilling farmers in Singur," the chief minister said. "I have instructed the department to prepare the papers for this. If Tatababu wants, he can set up his factory on the remaining 600 acres, otherwise we will see how to go about it," she added.[65]

She has also been credited to solving the longstanding "Gorkhaland Problem"[clarification needed] by setting up the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration.[66]

She has started various reforms in education and health sectors. Some of the reforms in the education sectors include release of the monthly pay of the teachers on the first of every month[67][68] and quicker pensions for retiring teachers.[69] In health sector "A three-phase developmental system will be taken up to improve the heath infrastructure and service,” Mamata Banerjee said."[70]

In fact she was instrumental in the rollback of the petrol price hikes[71] and the suspension of FDI in Retail Sector until a consensus is evolved.[72] In a bid of improve the law and enforcement situation in West Bengal, Police commissionerates were created at Howrah, Barrackpore, Durgapur-Asansol and Bidhannagar. The total area of Kolkata Municipal Corporation has been brought under the control of Kolkata Police.

Even before assuming the role of Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee had shown keen interest in making the public aware of the state's history and culture. She had named several stations of the Kolkata Metro after freedom fighters,[73] and plans on naming upcoming stations after religious leaders, poets, singers and the like.[74] One of her unprecedented moves as Chief Minister has been to arrange for the playing of Rabindra Sangeet at traffic signals in Kolkata.[75]

On 16 February 2012, Bill Gates, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, sent a letter to the West Bengal government praising Mamata Banerjee and her administration for achieving a full year without any reported cases of polio. The letter said this was not only a milestone for India but also for the whole world.[76][77]

Mamata Banerjee's Tenure as railway minister is now being questioned as most of the big-ticket announcements made by her last year when she was the railway minister, have seen little or no progress.[78] In June 2012, she launched a Facebook page to rally and gather public support for A.P.J Abdul Kalam, her party's choice for the presidential elections.[79]

Mamata didi gave her party support to Pranab Mukherjee for the post of President of India after a long drama over the issue,She also said" she was personally a "great fan" of Mukherjee and wished he grows from strength to strength". [clarification needed]

She is against calling bandhs (work stoppage) but she had called many of them when she was in opposition.[80] Mamata Banerjee took on congress for fuel price hike and other controversial decisions by starting her agitation in Jantar Mantar on 1, October, 2012.

In her statement on 17 October 2012, Banerjee attributed the increasing incidence of rape in the country to "more free interaction between men and women". She said,“Earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and reprimanded but now everything is so open. It’s like an open market with open options.” She was criticised in the national media for these statements[81]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  77. ^ "Bill Gates praises Mamata Banerjee". [dead link]
  78. ^ "Mamata's big rail plans of 2011–12 still stuck on performance track". 
  79. ^ "Mamata launches Facebook page – seeks support for APJ Abdul Kalam". 16 June 2012. 
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  81. ^ "Mamata blames media, 'free interaction of men-women' for rising cases of rape!". Daily Bhaskar. 17 October 2012. 

External links[edit]

Official
Other
Political offices
Preceded by
Lalu Prasad Yadav
Minister of Railways
2009–2011
Succeeded by
Dr. Manmohan Singh (pro tem)
Preceded by
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
Chief Minister of West Bengal
2011–present
Incumbent