This Article is From May 13, 2011

The 'Pariborton' of Mamata Banerjee and Bengal

Kolkata: There are few who will dispute that Mamata Banerjee's historic victory in West Bengal today has been scripted, chartered and delivered entirely by the woman who West Bengal refers to as "Didi" and whose call for "pariborton" or change has been fuelled by her emphasis on "ma, mati, manush" (Mother, Land, People).  

In 1997, she was expelled by the Congress for dubbing the party of being "the B team" for the Left Front in Bengal. The Congress, she charged, was not serious about taking on the Left. She formed her Trinamool Congress on January 1, 1998. For the next ten years, her political fortunes fluctuated wildly.

In 2009, she teamed up with the Congress for the general elections, delivering 26 of the state's 42 seats. The result established that the Left's three-decade-long grip over Bengal was being pried open, one finger at a time, by Ms Banerjee.

With that, her Trinamool Congress became the second-largest partner in the UPA. Ms Banerjee was named Railways Minister. Six of her party colleagues were made
ministers of state.

But that position came after many years of struggle and an unwavering determination to someday be Chief Minister and boss of  Writer's Building at BBD Bagh, Kolkata.   

She has allied in the past the BJP and has served as Railways Minister earlier - from 1999 to 2001 when Atal Behari Vajpayee was Prime Minister.  But she quit when a Tehelka expose into defence deals suggested corruption in sections of the BJP-led NDA.

In 2004, her party won just one parliamentary seat in the Lok Sabha election - her own.

And then came the Nandigram and Singur movements, which established her for many as a champion of farmers. Ms Banerjee led villagers in Nandigram and Singur who said their land was being forcibly acquired by the Left government for industry. In Nandigram in East Midnapore, a chemical hub had been planned. In Singur in the Hooghly district, Tata Motors was ready to set up its Nano factory. 

As villagers protested, the police opened fire in March 2007. 14 villagers were killed. 

Ms Banerjee fought hard  - and some say not entirely cleanly -  through party cadres in rural Bengal and with a hunger strike in Kolkata.  She ended her nearly month-long fast only after an appeal by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.  

But the fact that she has swept the state today suggests that while her role in Nandigram and Singur branded her as a people's politician, in cities, too, her clamour for "pariborton" has resonated.

Now will come her real challenge  - in transitioning from an always-fiery rebel with a cause to a Chief Minister who can deliver good governance in a state that says it's behind the times.