Millennium Post

‘Mamata is extremely rooted and practical’

An old mentor of Mamata Banerjee - now Minister of Public Health Engineering in the cabinet - Subrata Mukherjee has seen the lady through thick and thin, rough and tumble. In a freewheeling chat with Millennium Post, Mukherjee talks about Mamata in student politics, her rise to popularity and power and above all, her style of administration:
You were quite an established leader in the Congress when Mamata Banerjee was just getting into student politics in the 70s. Can you recall those days for us?

Why talk about those days? Mamata was always a natural leader and a great fighter. Her popularity among the masses has catapulted her to this position today. It is not age or experience but mass following which has made her chief minister of West Bengal. In the 70s she became the General Secretary of the state Mahila Congress and in 1984, she became one of the youngest parliamentarians ever, when she defeated veteran communist leader Somnath Chatterjee from the Jadavpur constituency. I had recommended her candidature then. If we walked miles deep into the villages campaigning during the elections, Mamata has walked with us. She has hard fought for the party (Congress). She has tremendous perseverance, grit and capacity to work hard even today.

What political ideology did you teach her?

She was always a big hater of the CPI(M) and has not changed her political stance in all these years. Though she cut her teeth in politics with the Congress, like us, she quit in 1997 and formed the All India Trinamool Congress because she felt that the state Congress was behaving like a 'stooge' of the CPI(M). There have been many ups and downs since but Mamata never gave up on beating the CPI(M). So here she is, having ousted the CPI(M) after 34 years of rule.

What has it been like for you to work with Mamata Banerjee as a member of her Cabinet?

Mamata is an extremely rooted and practical person. I have not have any trouble so far though we have been handicapped by a severe cash crunch from the moment we took over the government from the CPI(M). We have many more miles to go… in terms of achievements.

What about the bureaucrats of Bengal? Have you been able to bring about a change in their style of functioning?

As I said, much remains to be done. Many of them have been cooperating with the government. But there is no magic here… and the people are with us.
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