Category Archives: Politics

Jayalalitha and Mamata – The Iron Ladies of Indian Politics

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The Iron Ladies – Photo Courtesy: Political Mirror

As Jayalalitha’s cortege reached MGR Memorial near Marina Beach in Chennai, the solemnity of the occasion triggered a volley of thoughts in my minds. A panelist on some English news channel casually remarked how similar the struggles of Jayalalitha and Mamata Banerjee have been and I could not agree more.

Jayalalitha, who ruled the silver screen before taking the political plunge, was the protege of MG Ramachandran, the founder of AIADMK. She was the Propaganda Secretary of the party and went on to become a Rajya Sabha MP in 1984, the same year Mamata Banerjee emerged as a ‘giant-killer’ in Jadavpur, making her way to Lok Sabha.

After MGR’s death, Jayalalitha had to face stiff competition from within her party. Late MGR’s wife Janaki Ramachandran apparently did not even allow Jayalalitha to attend MGR’s funeral. The party headed for a split with the political future of Jayalalitha under question. AIADMK faced crushing defeat in the 1989 Assembly elections.

Mamata Banerjee’s feud with West Bengal Pradesh Congress is well-known. In the 1990s, the State Congress had virtually turned into a party of watermelons (green on the outside and red on the inside). Some senior leaders colluded with the Left to keep their Delhi ambitions afloat. From the famous ‘Outdoor’ Congress Party meet in 1996 to the subsequent formation of Trinamool, Mamata Banerjee’s struggle followed similar course as Jayalalitha’s.

Both Didi and Amma battled it out in a man’s world. With grit, determination and strong will-power they held on to their forte of mass appeal and galvanised the cadre and won the trust of the people. While Jayalalitha rode to power in 1991 as Tamil Nadu’s first female CM, Didi swept the polls in Bengal two decades later.

Even as the administrative heads of their respective States, Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalitha pursued similar policies. Inclusive governance through social empowerment seems to have been their guiding force. From fair price medicine shops to fair price vegetable stores, subsidised food to affordable healthcare, both the leaders have worked for the masses. In fact, despite the ‘populism’ economies of both Tamil Nadu and Bengal have prospered under the leaderships of Jayalalitha and Mamata, respectively.

There are very few mass leaders in India who command the love and respect of millions of people. The outpouring of grief and the sea of humanity at Marina Beach today is a testimony of Amma’s popularity. And Didi’s charismatic popularity can easily be gauged during her district visits, or from the massive turnout on annual 21 July rallies in the heart of Kolkata. Interestingly, the support of women forms a big pillar behind the success of both these leaders.

With Jayalalitha in heavenly abode now, the future of India rests on the Tigress of Bengal, specially in these tumultuous times. The days to come will determine how posterity scripts the history of the times we call the present Indian political scene.

Singur Verdict and Didi’s Germany visit – Bengal back on industry map

“Tears of joy” – that was the reaction of Bengal’s Chief Minister on 31 August after the Supreme Court of India termed the land acquisition in Singur illegal and ordered for the land acquired to be returned to farmers. A fight that had started on 18 May, 2006 finally attained fruition. Life came a full cycle for not just Mamata Banerjee, our Didi, but for many of us who had been associated with the Singur andolan.

Back in 2006, the ‘Nano plant’ at Singur was sold to us as a panacea that would magically end all the woes facing the State; it was marketed as the one big investment that would propel Bengal to a position among States that would put other ‘vibrant’ States to shame. True, after three decades of Left rule, Bengal was desperate for a ‘magic pill’.

So, when Tatas decided pull out of Singur, the mainstream media branded Didi as ‘anti-industry’. The West prefixed before Bengal was laughingly referred to as ‘Waste’ meaning there was no hope left for the State. We always maintained we are not against industry. Investors are most welcome to Bengal. However, the manner in which multi-crop fertile land was acquired using cadre-power, the scant regard shown for due process, the sheer arrogance of the CPI(M) propelled the hapless people to rise up against the establishment. The Supreme Court verdict has only vindicated our stand.

 

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Mamata Banerjee in Munich

 

The Singur verdict will embolden Mamata Banerjee. That she is not against private investment has been demonstrated in the two successful seasons of Bengal Global Business Summit and her trips to UK and Singapore. Despite the huge legacy of debt inherited from the Left Front Government, Bengal has been growing by leaps and bounds. The State’s GVA growth is 12% compared to 7% of India. The industrial growth of the State (8.3%) is also much higher than the national average (5.6%).

In this light, the CM’s trip to Germany was extremely significant. From 5-9 September, Team Bengal (the Chief Minister was accompanied by the State Finance, Commerce and Industries Minister Dr Amit Mitra, Mayor of Kolkata, several departmental secretaries, 29 industrialists and other members of the press) held several meetings at Munich, Stuttgart and Dusseldorf.

 

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Team Bengal at BMW HQ in Munich

 

At a business conclave at Munich, Bengal CM made an impassioned appeal to investors to come to Bengal. She talked about easy availability of land, power, labour. She made a strategic appeal to move over an incident in the past. The response in Germany has been impressive.Top-level officials of BMW made presentations to Team Bengal during a three-hour meeting. Dusseldorf has expressed interest in making Kolkata their ‘Sister City’.

The opinion about Bengal is changing in the global market. A State which was once known as the Bandh Capital of India was running like any normal day on September 2, when 17 trade unions had called for Bharat Bandh. In fact, the man-days lost in Bengal due bandhs has come down to zero in the last five years. Business conclaves like the one in Munich help bolstering the message ‘Bengal Means Business’.

 

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Standing ovation for Didi after Business Conclave in Munich

 

The seeds have been sown. The efforts of the State government to woo investors is clearly visible. All eyes on Bengal Global Business Summit, 2017. One thing is for certain: Bengal is back on the business map.

 

Photos courtesy: Ashok Majumder

 

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