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Ram has entered the land of Durga

June 05, 2019 13:59 IST

Mamata imposed affirmative action to the point of absurdity.
This has naturally led to counter-action: The Hindus who never thought of themselves as Hindus are now banding behind the BJP, points out Aditi Phadnis.

Mamata  Banerjee

Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

Mamata Banerjee singlehandedly turned the last phase of the elections into a gladiatorial fight, forcing the Bharatiya Janata Party to come out on the streets.

You cannot beat Mamata Banerjee in street politics.

The Congress, the Left parties -- they are all her victims.

She pours her heart and soul into pulverising her rivals.

Not for her sophistication and intellectualism.

She believes in raw power.

At a cabinet meeting, just after the Trinamool Congress supremo (and make no mistake, supremo is what she is) Mamata Banerjee had thrown a tantrum, a minister exclaimed in exasperation: "What is wrong with Mamata Banerjee?"

The question was a rhetorical one, but one of his Bengal colleagues took his time to answer it.

He took off his glasses, polished them, put them back on and said evenly: "If someone thinks she's a better poet than Rabindranath Tagore, a better musician than Beethoven and a better painter than Leonardo da Vinci, then everything is a problem".

Banerjee is viewed by the political community (cutting across party lines) as a problem child who should not be allowed among grown-ups unescorted.

But to the people of Bengal, her life is an open book and she is always, unfailingly one of them.

In a state that lionises poverty, she continues to live in a simple house with a tin roof near a mosquito-infested open canal.

Her style statement runs to simple handloom saris, rubber chappals and a modest Indian watch.

Not for her flashy mobiles and fancy cars.

She has a rule that she never breaks: She never eats in anyone's presence -- only when she is alone -- presumably because she lives among people who don't know where their next meal is coming from.

Banerjee grew up in straitened circumstances, having lost her father when she was just a teenager.

Her 'people' are her family.

So much so that she has an unbroken rule: She never attends any family functions. (Her nephew Abhishek, widely seen as her successor, got engaged to a girl in Delhi some years ago. Festivities went on for three days. Although Mamata had no other pressing engagements, she just stayed away.)

Her strongest bond was with her mother.

When she used to leave her Kalighat home for work, her mother would come to the door to see her off.

She would crane her neck, look back and settle back in the car only when she had lost sight of her mother.

Contrary to common perception, Mamata is not particularly close to her brothers.

She is impulsive, has strong likes and dislikes and trusts very few people.

Her mentor in politics was then Calcutta mayor Subroto Mukherjee who got Mamata's first Lok Sabha nomination in 1984.

She contested against a CPI-M heavyweight, lawyer and later Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, from Jadavpur, defeating him so thoroughly that he could never contest from that constituency again.

Mukherjee privately rues the day he let Mamata loose on Bengal.

The man who got the Calcutta Corporation to pass a resolution that Sourav Ganguly should get a Padma award, says he deserves the Bharat Ratna: 'Dancing on my head is Mamata Banerjee; under my command is the army of sweepers employed by the corporation. With all this, I am still running the corporation. Shouldn't I get an award for this feat?' he once asked in a interview.

With all this, how did Mamata allow the BJP to acquire a mass presence in Bengal?

Trinamool supporters say she has only herself to blame.

New mosques are sprouting all over Bengal on public land.

Tourists are warned by well-wishers never to get into an altercation with a Muslim on the streets: The police have orders to arrest you first and ask you questions later.

Mamata has imposed affirmative action to the point of absurdity.

This has naturally led to counter-action: The Hindus who never thought of themselves as Hindus are now banding behind the BJP.

Ram has entered the land of Durga.

Bengal is the BJP's new frontier.

Aditi Phadnis
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