It was January in 1993 when Mamata Banerjee, a female minister from the Indian state of West Bengal, staged a sit-in outside the chamber of then chief minister, Jyoti Basu, to demand justice for an oppressed deaf and dumb girl. However, she was not allowed to meet the chief minister and the police forcibly dragged the protesting women away.
Mamata Banerjee, in response to the defamatory attitude of the police, swore then that she would return to the building only after becoming the chief minister. It took her 18 years to fulfill her pledge, and it was an historic moment in May 2011 when she succeeded to become the Chief Minister with the support of the public.
Today, ten years later, Mamata Banerjee has made a new history by taking oath as the chief minister of West Bengal for the third time consequently. In the recent elections, Mamata Banerjee’s political party won 213 seats out of 292 seats.
Mamata Banerjee started her political career in the All India Congress at the young age of 21 years in 1976. She was elected secretary general of the women’s wing of the Congress party. She also played a key role in the formation of the student wing of Congress Party in her college. She was also active as the general secretary of the All India Youth Congress.
During the 1985 elections, she was contesting against a strong candidate of the Communist Party of India. Mamata not only defeated the opposition candidate, but also became the youngest female member of parliament in India. Due to party differences with the Congress leadership, she decided to contest next elections under the banner of her own newly-formed political party, the Trinamool Congress.
Being the first female railways minister, Mamata presented her first railway budget. She offered a special pass for the poor vulnerable class to ensure a dignified journey in the local train. She also focused on promoting tourism by introducing many new trains.
Whether it is a controversial issue of the citizenship bill or any other extreme matter, she has always raised voice in support of truth and justice. Due to her public popularity, negative propaganda against Mamata Banerjee was initiated by her political opponents. She has also been criticized for her master’s degree in Islamic history from the University of Calcutta. Numerous video clips have gone viral in the media in which she is seen expressing solidarity with the Muslim minority. However, Mamata has always urged her rivals to refrain from playing religion cards.
Mamata Banerjee is also known as ‘Didi’, meaning elder sister in Hindi language; strongly advocates for the promotion of simplicity, honesty, religious tolerance and moral values in society. In her personal life, Mamata is a practical example of simplicity and sincerity. According to media reports, despite becoming the chief minister, her lifestyle has not changed. As a chief minister, she does not receive any salary or any other government benefit. She has also terminated her pension. She used to travel in the economy class and would bear her own expenses. Mamata believes a public leader is one who lives a simple and honest life, and cannot be pressurized by corruption investigations.
As a poet, musician and artist, she covers her expenses with the money she receives from her books and music royalties. The sale of her paintings is also her other source of income. Her popular publications of stories and poems in Bengali fall into the category of bestsellers. In my view, Mamata Banerjee is a role model for every politician who joins politics. On behalf of the Pakistan Hindu Council, I would like to congratulate Mamata for her tireless struggle and remarkable victory. May the forces of tolerance, positivity and humanity get more strength in the region.
The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council. Twitter: @RVankwani