Mamata Banerjee takes oath as West Bengal CM: Charting the political journey of the 'daughter of Bengal'
With the spectre of COVID-19 hanging above the state of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, on Wednesday, took the oath to become the state's chief minister for the third time. Her swearing-in ceremony is the fruit of months of intense political campaigning, marked also with grim episodes of violence, one of which left her temporarily wheelchair-ridden as she took on the might of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP's performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls coupled with its mobilisation of heavy-hitters, most notably that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, led even the most seasoned political analysts to question whether Banerjee's term at West Bengal's helm may be under real jeopardy. But the Trinamool Congress' (TMC) landslide victory – it won 213 of 292 seats while the BJP failed to hit triple digits, winning just 77 – quickly put to bed any suspicions that the TMC supremo's charm had waned. Some might say Didi's win, in the face of a challenger as mighty as the BJP, may be the most important of a political career that began as far back as the 1970s. Cultivating an interest in politics at an early age, Banerjee, who was born in Kolkata in 1955, first studied history at the University of Calcutta before securing a degree in Islamic history. At the age of 15, while studying at the Jogamaya Devi College, she set up the Chhatra Parishad Unions, the student wing of the Indian National Congress. She would continue to serve within the Congress in various positions but it was truly in 1975 that she gained national attention, when she danced on the car of socialist politician and activist, Jayaprakash Narayan. RELATED NEWS Mamata Banerjee takes oath as WB CM for 3rd consecutive term; 'Bengal facing dark era,' says BJP leader Biplab Deb says ‘ethically’ Mamata Banerjee should not become West Bengal CM after Nandigram defeat West Bengal violence: Mamata calls upon top administrative, police officers; Nadda meets victims [Key Points] Rising through the Congress ranks, Banerjee served as the General Secretary of the Mahila Congress in West Bengal between 1976 and 1980. In the 1984 general election, she was to become one of the nation's youngest parliamentarians when she overthrew long-time incumbent and Communist politician Somnath Chatterjee in the Jadavpur Parliamentary constituency. Despite losing her seat to Malini Bhattacharya of Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 1989, Banerjee was re-elected from the Calcutta South constituency in 1991 and maintained a grip over the seat till 2009. Under the PV Narasimha Rao-led dispensation, Banerjee would become the first female minister to hold three portfolios – the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Youth and Sports and Women and Child Development. However, ideological differences would soon see her split from the INC in the late 90s, and in 1997, Banerjee, along with Mukul Roy, launched the All India Trinamool Congress Party.Having joined the NDA alliance in 1999, Banerjee would go on to become the Railway Minister under then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But her alliance with the NDA would be short-lived, and in 2001, she walked out of the Cabinet to merge with the Congress Party prior to the 2001 elections. In September 2003, she would return to the NDA, and in January 2004, was granted the portfolio of the Ministry of Coal and Mines. Having allied with the BJP in the run-up to the 2004 elections, Banerjee would become the only member of the TMC to win from her parliamentary seat in West Bengal as the NDA was brushed aside. Further electoral setbacks would follow in the next few years but in 2009, she joined the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). In 2011, Banerjee made history when the TMC, in alliance with SUCI and the INC, overthrew the Left Alliance in West Bengal which had enjoyed a vice-grip over the state for 34 years. Banerjee took the oath to become West Bengal's chief minister for the first time on 20 May 2011. The TMC would build on its 2011 performance in 2016, claiming 211 out of 293 seats in the 2016 Assembly polls, paving the way for Banerjee to begin a second term as chief minister. The years since have found the TMC founder embroiled in a series of controversies from the Saradha Group scandal to the Rose Valley scandal but the overwhelming mandate that West Bengal's constituents gave her on May 2 indicates that her firebrand style of politics still resonates loudest with those on the ground.