As Mamata Banerjee Turns Focus On National Stage, Nephew Rises In Bengal

Six years after Mamata Banerjee took to the streets of Kolkata against rising fuel prices, her nephew Abhishek Banerjee led a similar march last week

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As Mamata Banerjee Turns Focus On National Stage, Nephew Rises In Bengal

Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee led a rally in Kolkata against rising fuel prices

Kolkata:  The politics of dynasty, especially involving the son, may be a fairly familiar phenomenon in the Indian political landscape but in West Bengal the beneficiary seems to be 30-year-old Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of Mamata Banerjee. Mr Banerjee seems to be slowly but surely being moved to the front as the Chief Minister turns her focus on the national stage. 

Six years after Ms Banerjee took to the streets of Kolkata to protest spiralling fuel prices, Abhishek Banerjee led a march for the same reason last week from Jadavpur to Hazra.

Few in the Trinamool Congress doubt what the nephew's eventual destination is.

"Now Mamata is the face of India, she represents India, so naturally the face of the youth of Bengal is Abhishek Banerjee," said Madan Mitra, a former minister in Mamata Banerjee's government who walked alongside Abhishek Banerjee. 

"Today's leader, tomorrow's hope," Mr Mitra added. 

Abhishek Banerjee's rise has been meteoric. Appointed Trinamool Yuva chief in 2010, he became the Lok Sabha member from Diamond Harbour in 2014. Within months, Trinamool Yuva was merged with Trinamool Youth Congress and Mr Banerjee placed at its helm.

In a way, he dislodged his predecessor Suvendu Adhikari, the Trinamool parliamentarian with a powerbase in East Midnapore district, who won Nandigram for Mamata Banerjee.
  
Mr Adhikari was reportedly miffed but pacified by Mamata Banerjee who invited him to opt out of parliament and join her government in 2016. He did and was made the transport minister. Last week, he got the environment portfolio too for delivering Congress-held Murshidabad district in the recent panchayat poll. He has a hotline to the chief minister with no go-betweens.

Abhishek Banerjee is not unaware of the turbulence.   

"In our party, there is just one leader and the rest are just workers. There is no Number 2 or Number 3 in this party. You are workers and I am also a worker," he said at a meeting at the end of his protest march. He also promised to help oust the BJP in New Delhi and let his aunt take centre stage.

Opposition parties are watching the dynastic drift and the infighting between what party men call Trinamool Yuva and 'Trinamool Mother'. One of the worst hotbeds of the internal feud last year was South 24 Parganas district.
  
"The fight between Yuva and the rest of the Trinamool is so vicious, we saw how so many Trinamool workers were killed in internal fights during the panchayat polls," said BJP's national secretary Rahul Sinha. "These internal fights will be the undoing of the Trinamool."
  
CPM lawmaker Mohammed Salim says West Bengal has never accepted dynasty politics. 

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"Abhishek was thrust upon the Trinamool. Mukul Roy, Suvendu Adhikari became angry with Mamata Banerjee because of that. The mother party and baby party are fighting all the time, sure sign that dynasty will never take root here", said Md Salim.

Abhishek Banerjee's aides say, "Dilli Chalo for Didi. And in Bengal, Abhishek, who else?" But smooth sailing in Bengal is not guaranteed and depends on how the political wind blows in New Delhi.

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