Few political leaders in India arouse such strong reactions as Mamata Banerjee. You either love her or hate her. But you ignore her at your own peril. From the time she did the unthinkable in dislodging the 30-year-old leftist government in Bengal, she has been at the forefront of Indian politics, ushering in dramatic changes in her home state while taking on the Centre repeatedly, thus establishing a pan-Indian presence. Exploring her struggles and achievements, Didi: The Untold Mamata Banerjee by Shutapa Paul opens a window to the life and times of one of the most dynamic politicians of our country.
Mamata Banerjee remains an enigma in many ways but who is the real Mamata Banerjee? Know her from the people who love and adore her-
‘She was a very ordinary student. I taught her English. She was weak in English and Maths. She was impoverished, looked poor and wore clothes that were hardly in the best condition. We never thought she would be able to achieve so much in her life. But she has a lot of respect for her teachers. Even while leading a political rally through the streets of Kolkata as a central minister, she stopped and touched my feet,’ said Krishna Mukherjee, a retired teacher of Deshbandhu Shishu Sikshalaya.
Retired physical sciences teacher Namita Chakraborty recalled Mamata as a good class monitor who would ensure that the girls remained quiet when the teacher was away. She also had a knack for drawing, creating large representations of laboratory apparatuses and eye diagrams on chart papers that were displayed around the school.
‘When she sees atrocities in front of her eyes, she immediately reacts and opposes it. That’s what makes her stand out.’ —Saugata Roy, Member of Parliament, TMC .
Her followers say she is benevolent but can scold you like a child. She is more a family member than a leader to her followers. They feel a sense of closeness towards her; hers is an image that has been carefully honed and sustained even after being in power. If there is trouble, her followers are sure that she will stand up for them almost like a combative guardian.
‘Mamata Banerjee is a born rebel […] She has built her own career—fearlessly and aggressively—and what she is today is the outcome of her own struggle, labour and hard work. She has an aura about her which is difficult to explain but impossible to ignore,’ writes Shri Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, former President of India
These have been excerpted from Paul’s book. Read more about her political journey in Shutapa Paul’s ‘Didi: The Untold Mamata Banerjee’.