Millennium Post

How Mamata battles it out

In an era when scams running into lakhs of crores are not enough to topple governments, West Bengal’s firebrand Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stands out as one of India’s rare politicians who does not hesitate to dump the kursi and embrace value-based politics. Banerjee recently withdrew support from the UPA government at the Centre in protest against FDI in multi-brand retail, fuel price hike and cap on LPG supply.

Her party’s big rally at Jantar Mantar on 1 October  is indeed being seen as an effort to drum up national support for the agitation against the Centre outside Bengal. ‘On 1 October, we, on behalf of the All India Trinamool Congress, will be organising a demonstration at Jantar Mantar at New Delhi. We all will be present to highlight these issues [FDI in retail, hike in diesel price and restricted subsidy on cooking gas],’ her Facebook post read.

Her party colleagues and Trinamool Parliamentarians were also upbeat about the Jantar Mantar protest meet. ‘This goes to prove that Didi still has a strong presence in national politics. She and seniors like Mukul Roy are working hard for the last 48 hours to make it a high-impact protest meeting,’ said AITC MP Shatabdi Roy.

The announcement assumes political significance as Banerjee is for the first time taking her battle against the Centre to Delhi.

The Chief Minister also uploaded two letters, one by the Federation of Associations of Maharashtra dated 20 December, 2004, and the other by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dated 21 December, 2002, to claim that Singh was against FDI in retail 10 years ago.

The Bengal CM was candid in her appeal to the people, ‘I am requesting all of you to please come and tell your friends also to join the democratic demonstration  on October 1, 2012. Let us fight the battle boldly and unitedly. In a democracy, people are the supreme. Our voice is the voice of the people. We must raise our voice, so that the government must reconsider.’

With her 19 lawmakers in Parliament, the TMC was the second biggest ally of the Congress party, which has now become a minority government.

Banerjee’s battle is also against the Left parties - her arch-rival in Bengal - she is unwilling to take any chances to allow them to use her exit from the ruling coalition to their benefit.

Her colleague in the cabinet and senior from her Youth Congress days, Subrata Mukherjee recalls her early days in the Youth Congress, ‘She has always fought for what is right. In Bengal, she quit the Congress to form the Trinamool Congress in 1997. She never hesitated to sacrifice even ministerial berths if the cause demanded so,’ said Mukherjee.

 One recalls how Banerjee, in 2001, quit her berth in the NDA Cabinet after the Tehelka expose and before that in 2000, after a similar hike in petroleum prices. Also, her decision to oppose the UPA’s Presidential candidate, Pranab Mukherjee, was backed by the whole issue of not receiving a moratorium on loans taken by the erstwhile CPIM Government in power for over 30 years in Bengal.

The moratorium did not come through but Banerjee relented and backed Mukherjee , even wishing him luck for his term in office. That was an exception rather than the rule.
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