Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee, who has virtually single-handedly steered her party to a resounding victory in West Bengal, has shored up her stature as a regional satrap but faces numerous challenges on the development front in her second stint as chief minister.
The 61-year-old leader, fondly called ‘didi’ by her supporters, proved that she was not just a tough street fighter but a master strategist, as she successfully overcame the challenge posed by the Left-Congress combine and BJP despite a shrill ampaign against her.
A firebrand orator, she had formed the Trinamool Congress in 1998 after falling out with the Congress Party in West Bengal.
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She coined the slogan, “Ma, Mati o Manush” (Mother, Land and People), before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and played on the anti-incumbency factor after more than three decades of Left rule and the creeping disillusionment among several sections, like Muslims, to root out the Left in partnership with the Congress in 2011.
Known for her humble lifestyle, Banerjee successfully sold a vision of development, cashing in on the deep resentment among the middle classes and unemployed youths, promising jobs and development.
But with West Bengal facing huge debt burden, Banerjee faces an uphill to steer the state’s economy on the growth path and create an atmosphere to attract investments and spur industrial growth.
Her nondescript residence–a single-storey house in a dingy lane close to the Kalighat temple—and equally simple attire comprising cotton saris, ‘jhola’ bags and cheap hawai chappals, has endeared her to the masses.
A seven-time MP, Banerjee who took over as the chief minister in 2011 winning by-poll from Bhabanipur, steered Trinamool Congress through victory in subsequent elections to panchayat, civic bodies and 2014 Lok Sabha.
She launched various development initiatives in the state but also faced criticism over Saradha chit fund and Narada scams.
Among various development schemes undertaken by her as the chief minister were ‘Kanyashree’ schemes for girls and ‘Sabuj Sathi’ under which cycles were distributed among the students, besides Rs 2 per kg rice for the 8 crore people in the state.
However, allegations of corruption dented the image of her party and the opposition made it a prime issue.
Born in a middle class family and daughter of a freedom fighter, Banerjee was a student of law and education. In her initial years in public life, she was mentored by veteran Congress leader Subrata Mukherjee – now ironically a senior minister in her state cabinet.