Who is Mamata Banerjee? - Influential Indian Politician and Chief Minister of West Bengal

OccupationChief Minister of West Bengal
Political PartyAll India Trinamool Congress (AITC)
In Office20 May 2011 – present
ConstituencyBhabanipur (2011-2021), Nandigram (2021)
Preceded byBuddhadeb Bhattacharjee
Mamata Banerjee was born on 5 January 1955 in Kolkata, West Bengal to a Bengali Hindu family. She grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood and lost her father at a young age. Despite facing adversities, Banerjee pursued her education and earned a Bachelor's degree in History from Jogamaya Devi College, a Master's degree in Islamic History from the University of Calcutta. She later obtained degrees in Education and Law.

Early Political Career

Banerjee's political journey began during her student days when she joined the Indian National Congress (INC) in West Bengal in the 1970s. She quickly rose through the ranks and served as the General Secretary of Mahila Congress in the state from 1976 to 1980.

In 1984, Banerjee was elected to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India's Parliament, becoming one of the country's youngest parliamentarians. She defeated veteran Communist leader Somnath Chatterjee in the Jadavpur constituency. However, she lost the seat in the 1989 elections.

Prominence in the Indian National Congress

Banerjee was re-elected to the Lok Sabha in 1991 from Kolkata South constituency and retained the seat in subsequent elections in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009. During her tenure in the INC, she held several key positions in the Union Cabinet:

  • Union Minister of State for Human Resources Development, Youth Affairs and Sports, and Women and Child Development in 1991-1993 under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao.
  • Union Minister of Railways in 1999-2001 under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, becoming the first woman to hold the post.
  • Union Minister of Coal and Mines, and Minister without portfolio in 2004 under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Despite her rising stature in national politics, Banerjee maintained a strong grassroots connect in West Bengal. She was popularly known as "Didi" (meaning elder sister) among her supporters.

Founding the All India Trinamool Congress

In 1997, Banerjee left the INC due to differences with the party leadership. She founded the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC or TMC) in 1998 with an aim to challenge the incumbent Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) government in West Bengal.

The AITC struggled initially but gained momentum after Banerjee's 25-day hunger strike in 2006 to protest the forcible land acquisition in Singur by the then CPI(M)-led state government for an industrial project. This, along with the Nandigram agitation against land acquisition in 2007, brought Banerjee to the forefront of the opposition against the Left Front government.

Chief Minister of West Bengal

In the 2011 West Bengal Legislative Assembly election, the AITC alliance led by Banerjee won a landslide majority, ending the 34-year rule of the Left Front. Banerjee took oath as the Chief Minister on 20 May 2011, becoming the first woman to hold the office.

She was re-elected in 2016 with an even larger majority. The AITC won 211 out of 293 seats, becoming the first ruling party in West Bengal to win without an ally since 1962.

In the 2021 assembly elections, Banerjee led the AITC to a third consecutive term, winning 213 out of 292 seats. However, she lost in Nandigram constituency to her former aide Suvendu Adhikari who had defected to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Subsequently, Banerjee contested a by-election from Bhabanipur constituency and won.

Other Interests and Accolades

Apart from her political career, Mamata Banerjee is a self-taught painter, poet, and writer. Her paintings have been auctioned to raise funds for social causes. She has also authored several books.

Banerjee was named among the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time magazine in 2012. She was conferred the Skoch Chief Minister of the Year Award in 2018.