Mamata finds her own Mukherjee
By Shutapa Paul - KOLKATA
Published: 08th Jul 2012 12:02:15 PM
A Congress veteran, he helped start the All India Trinamool Congress (AITMC) in 1997 but ditched the party to rejoin the Congress, and once again changed camps in 2010. Subrata Mukherjee may be a well-known turncoat but he is definitely no political greenhorn. He is perhaps the only minister in Didi’s cabinet with prior ministerial experience and after months of being sidelined by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Mukherjee has now emerged as the man of the moment.
Mukherjee’s political equation with Didi has been an interesting one. He has been famous for making derogatory remarks towards Banerjee, once even going to the extent of calling her ‘Beder meye jyotsna’ (a snake-charmer’s daughter) based on a film by the same name. But Didi has had to put all that acrimony behind her as she reshuffled her cabinet a few months ago to give Mukherjee a meatier role. With the crucial polls threatening to be held as early as in the last week of December, Mukherjee was saddled with the panchayat and rural development portfolio replacing Chandranath Sinha. As time has progressed, Banerjee has had no choice but to rely on the only minister in her cabinet who can help her with the upcoming Panchayat polls.
Mukherjee had parted ways with the Congress ahead of the civic polls in 2010, stating then that his former party was ‘not serious enough to fight the CPI(M)’. And now his work is cut out. Panchayats in West Bengal have seen Left dominance and decimating the Marxists at the grassroots level is the final feather in the TMC cap. At a time when the TMC-Congress relationship is strained beyond measure, Didi has catapulted Mukherjee to cross swords with the Congress. He even accused Presidential hopeful Pranab Mukherjee of “trying to break TMC” by telephoning rebel TMC MP Kabir Suman.
Often criticised for being a one -woman party, Banerjee is slowly placing her confidence in Mukherjee. Didi, who would speak to the media at the drop of a hat, has been allowing Mukherjee to address several important issues. He tackles questions on Singur, attacks Union Home Minister P Chidambaram for expressing concern over “inter-party clashes” in the state and at the same time blow a hole into Left-controlled zilla parishads by cutting funds. “The Left-controlled zilla parishads are not performing because of political reasons. So we have taken up a policy of punishing these panchayats. Instead of providing them with funds, concerned Block Development Officers (BDOs) have been financially empowered to execute development works in the non-performing panchayat areas. To encourage the performing panchayats, we are awarding them and providing them with more funds,” said Mukherjee, State Panchayat Minister.
Mukherjee’s main goal is to ensure success for his party in the three-tier Panchayat polls. He keeps in touch with Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and tom-toms the state’s increase in mandays under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) from 17 to 25 days. But the number is still far lower to be a source of pride.
With the TMC-led government fumbling with the Singur Act, scores of bitter farmers seem to have lost faith in the government. As much as Banerjee may pledge on Facebook, “Throughout my life, I have struggled for the cause of the farmers, working class, poor and under-privileged. Our commitment to be with them will remain, whether I am in power or not. I will continue to fight for this cause. Finally, the people’s choice in democracy will prevail,” the real battle for the grassroots is being led outside of the virtual world led by Mukherjee.