Subrata Mukherjee: an all-season politician who has risen through her organizational skills

Subrata Mukherjee, who breathed his last Thursday night after prolonged illness, will go down in history as a man of all seasons who has navigated West Bengal politics both as a skillful politician and a capable administrator for over 50 years.

Mukherjee, 75, held the panchayat and rural development portfolios in Chief Minister Mamata’s Trinamool Congressional government.

A mainstay of Bengal politics, his political career spanned more than five decades, beginning in the tumultuous 1960s as a student leader. Born in 1946 in the South 24 Parganas district, Mukherjee – the eldest of five siblings – was baptized into politics as a student leader at Bangabasi College in 1967 when he joined Chhatra Parishad, the student wing of the Congress. During this period he came into contact with Congress leader Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi.

Mukherjee, through his organizational and public speaking skills, quickly rose through the ranks and became one of the most popular leaders in Congress, along with Dasmunsi and former state congressman Somen Mitra.

Subrata Mukherjee
(Photo file)

Dasmunsi and Mitra died in 2017 and 2020 respectively.

Mukherjee’s organizational skills were noticed by Dasmunsi, who took him under his wing. The pair have crisscrossed West Bengal back and forth, fighting the ideological and political battle on two fronts with the Naxalites and the left.

His oratory and organizational skills also earned him the praise of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Mukherjee’s first contact with electoral politics came in 1971 when he became the youngest member of the West Bengal Assembly from the Ballygunge headquarters at the age of 25. His political career reached a new high when in 1972 he became the youngest minister of Siddhartha Shankar. Cabinet Ray after Congress returned to power with a massive tenure. He was appointed Minister of State for Information and Culture.

He was often criticized for suppressing the press during the emergency period from 1975 to 1977.

Although he lost the election in 1977, this failed to stop his rapid growth within the party, and he was back in the assembly after the 1982 election from the seat of Jorabagan. He remained a member of the Assembly until the last day of his life, from the siege of Ballygunge.

According to senior politicians, Mukherjee was Mamata Banerjee’s political mentor during her early years at Chhatra Parishad in the late 1970s and early 1960s.

Mukherjee had even proposed Banerjee’s name as the Congress candidate against Somnath Chatterjee, then CPI (M) pillar, of the Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat in the 1984 parliamentary elections. Banerjee then defeated Chatterjee to become a giant killer in politics. of State.

One of the state’s most colorful politicians, Mukherjee was also known for his sense of humor and as someone who was at ease when it came to switching sides.

In 1999, Mukherjee joined Mamata Banerjee’s newly formed Trinamool Congress (TMC), although he remained a congressman from the Chowranghee seat.

A year later, he became mayor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and was credited with changing the city’s landscape. His insight as a capable administrator was widely praised during his tenure as mayor from 2000 to 2005.

But in 2005, due to disputes with Mamata Banerjee, he left the TMC and formed an alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party. Mukherjee’s desertion dealt a heavy blow to the TMC, leading to its defeat in the 2005 KMC election.

Furious at his betrayal, Banerjee had nicknamed him “tormuj” (watermelon), describing him as someone who was a Congressional activist in public but who was closely linked to the CPI (M).

Although one of the fiercest critics of the Left Front regime, Mukherjee was known to maintain close ties with CPI (M) leaders, including then-chief minister Jyoti Basu.

He then returned to Congress in 2005 only to leave it again just before the 2010 KMC elections to join the TMC.

“Subrata Mukherjee was not only a skilled organizer and administrator, but she had a deep connection to the workers at the local level. Perhaps that is why he has always been on the winning side, ”said Congress veteran and MP Pradip Bhattacharya.

In 2011, he was elected to Ballygunge headquarters as the TMC candidate and was given responsibility for panchayats and rural development. During his tenure, West Bengal won laurels for being one of the most successful states in implementing the MGNREGA program. He also held the public enterprise and industrial reconstruction portfolio. In February 2012, he was appointed Indian President of INTTUC.

Mukherjee retained his seat in Ballygunge in the Assembly polls of 2016 and 2021.

Just before the 2016 Assembly polls, Mukherjee’s name appeared in the Narada duct tape affair with a few other TMC leaders. He had denied any involvement and called it a “political conspiracy”. On May 27 this year, Mukherjee, along with Senior Cabinet Minister Mamata Banerjee Firad Hakim, MPP and former Minister Madan Mitra and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee were arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation as part of the Narada infiltration operation. They were later released on bail by the High Court in Calcutta.

A graduate in anthropology with a master’s degree in archeology, Mukherjee was a living storyteller who firmly believed in the existence of ghosts. He also starred in a television series alongside Moon Moon Sen in the late 1980s.

He unsuccessfully challenged Lok Sabha’s polls three times – from Kolkata Northwest in 2004 and Bankura in 2009 and 2019.

Minister TMC was admitted to SSKM Hospital in Kolkata last week following heart complications. He had undergone angioplasty and two stents had been placed to remove blockages in his heart. He was due to be discharged from hospital on Friday, but suffered massive cardiac arrest and died Thursday night.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who rushed to SSKM hospital after learning of her death, said. “I have seen a lot of disasters in my life. But the death of Subrata Mukherjee is the greatest disaster of my life. Someone of his stature, who loved the party and the people in his riding, will never come back. After my return from Goa, I had met him in the hospital. He told me he wanted to resume his visits to the districts, ”Banerjee said after arriving at the hospital Thursday night.

She also collapsed while talking to reporters. “On this festival of lights, it looks like massive darkness,” she said.

Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar recalled that Mukherjee was a “political gentleman”.

“As a senior lawmaker, I had many personal moments with him, especially when he received me at the Gandhi statue on October 2 and January 30. He was humble, very polite, very persuasive and a politician. My condolences to his wife. The void left by him is difficult to fill, ”said Dhankhar after paying tribute to him.

TMC Minister Firhad Hakim said: “I grew up seeing Subratada. He was my childhood hero. There have been many instances where I have approached him for advice and he has always guided me… It is an irreparable loss. This void will never be filled. He was an inspiration to all of us… We have no words to describe this loss… I lost my big brother.

” It’s the end of an era. A person like him is rare to find in politics, ”said West Bengal Congress President Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

CPI Secretary of State (M) Surya Kanta Mishra and Party Spokesman Sujan Chakraborty also paid Mukherjee’s final tribute to Rabindra Sadan where his mortal remains have been kept for the public.

Left Front chairman Biman Bose said he was reminiscent of Mukherjee’s sense of humor. “He was a leader of a different kind. He had a good relationship with everyone. He also got along very well with people. I knew him when he was a student leader at Bangabasi College.

Dilip Ghosh of the BJP said: “His contribution to Bengal politics will never be forgotten. He was the Bhishma Pitamah of Bengal politics. It is a great loss for all of us. “

In his message of condolence, industrialist Sanjiv Goenka said: “In Subrata Mukherjee, we have lost a very good and very capable leader. On a personal level, I had known him for over 35 years. It is a very deep personal loss.

Hundreds of Mukherjee supporters and admirers have paid tribute to him to Rabindra Sadan. Later, his mortal remains were taken to the West Bengal Legislative Assembly where MPs paid tribute.

Later his body was taken to his residence in Ballygunge and also to the Ekdalia Evergreen Club – he was a club boss. He was cremated with all state honors at the Keoratala crematorium.

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