April 13, 2021 10:11:43 pm
Should he win from Ballygunge seat in South Kolkata, which votes on April 26, Trinamool leader Subrata Mukherjee could go on to mark 50 years as an MLA in the West Bengal Assembly.
During this long career, Mukherjee, 75, has been in two parties (the Congress and Trinamool), floated an outfit of own, and has had friends across high places spanning the political divide. Among the leaders he was considered close to were former Congress prime minister Indira Gandhi, the CPM’s Bengal torchbearer Jyoti Basu, and controversial Congress chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Roy.
Mukherjee had started his political career with another leader who went on to become a state stalwart, Priyaranjan Dasmunshi. Both came to Kolkata for higher studies and ended up in the Congress students’ wing Chhatra Parishad in the 1960s. For a time, they were roommates.
During a tumultuous era in West Bengal politics, Mukherjee became an MLA for the first time, winning Ballygunje in 1971. The government fell, forcing a re-election a year later, which Mukherjee again won. When he came to power, Congress CM Siddhartha Shankar Roy made Mukherjee the Minister of State for 11 departments that were under him. He handled the portfolio when West Bengal brought in changes in the panchayati raj Act, which were finally implemented by the Left government in 1977.
Mukherjee went on to win successive terms as MLA, even as his stature grew as a trade union leader. His oratory, plus sense of humour, kept him in good stead. In 1999, he crossed over to the Trinamool.
A year later, Mukherjee became the Mayor of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) as a TMC candidate. He is credited with introducing many changes during his tenure, especially as regards the city’s crumbling tram system.
In 2011, when Mamata Banerjee came to power for the first time, she made Mukherjee the Panchayat and Rural Development Minister, with additional charge of Public Engineering and Health. In his tenure, the state ranked first in providing work guaranteed under MGNREGA.
Mukherjee is among the handful of TMC leaders who call Mamata by her name. At the same time, he continues to cherish his ties with Jyoti Basu, saying often, “In my personal life, I got huge affection from Jyotibabu.”
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