Mamata Banerjee hogs limelight in Bengal

Kolkata: The love-hate relationship between Congress and Trinamool Congress finally ended with Mamata Banerjee walking out of the UPA and Congress pulling out its ministers from the West Bengal government in 2012, which saw the chief minister going through some tough times be it for her controversial remarks, Opposition attacks, rumblings within her own party or the cartoon controversy.

Banerjee, however, scored a point when she was named among the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.

The UPA government's renewed thrust on reforms led to Mamata leaving the coalition after less than three and half years. In a veritable tit-for-tat, Congress pulled out its six ministers from the West Bengal government.

The alliance at the national level broke up over the issues of FDI in multi-brand retail, cap on subsidised LPG cylinders and diesel price rise. Mamata promised that she would fight "like a tiger cub" against "anti-people policies" and analysts say in her opposition to UPA's reform programmes, she sought to prove more left than the Left.

Mamata, who has been complaining of lack of funds to battle the huge debt burden over over Rs 2 lakh crore which she says was left behind by the previous coalition, finds herself more and more at the receiving end facing one controversy after another.

Her government faced severe criticism on several fronts, including a controversial government order on newspapers that government-run libraries were allowed to keep and over the arrest of a professor for forwarding a cartoon by email showing her in poor light. The arrest of a scientist for taking part in an anti-eviction drive drew flak.

Banerjee also attacked a section of the media and urged the people not to give credence to canards against the government.

Under fire for increasing incidents of rape in West Bengal, Mamata blasted a section of the media houses, alleging that they paid money to concoct opinion.

She courted controversy again, this time with Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju. What caused Banerjee to flare up was a letter that Press Council of India chairman Katju wrote to her, suggesting she would lose power if she did not change.

Katju had also written a letter to her seeking action against policemen, who arrested Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and farmer Shiladitya Chowdhury, the first for circulating a cartoon of the Chief Minister and the second for questioning her policies.

During the year, she acknowledged that her only failure is not being able to return land taken to unwilling farmers in Singur for the Tata Motors project. So the state government announced that farmers, who did not take compensation would be given Rs 1,000 a month which was doubled to Rs 2000 later and rice at Rs 2 a kg till the matter is settled in court.

The year saw the restoration of peace in the troubled Darjeeling hills with the swearing-in of Gorkha Territorial Administration. The Darjeeling hills have been on the boil in recent years, with a series of agitations and bandhs called by the GJM.

Mamata held a number of meetings to convince industry captains about her industrial and land acquisition policies while projecting the state as an attractive investment destination.

 Amitabh Bachchan inaugurated the 18th Kolkata Film Festival in November at the request of Mamata. Last year, Shah Rukh Khan had done the honours. Mamata personally called up the Big B and asked him to grace the festival.

The year saw Trinamool Congress leaderships grappling with the revolt by its party leaders. Ending his defiance and bringing to a close five-day drama after he incurred the wrath of TMC for hiking passenger fares in the Railway Budget, Dinesh Trivedi resigned as railway minister.

Singur MLA and minister Rabindranath Bhattacherjee resigned from the government in protest against change of portfolio. On the backdrop of news of TMC factional feud pouring in from all corners of the state, Mamata sent out a strong message to all party leaders and urged them to refrain from infighting.

The year also saw desertion from Congress to Trinamool Congress with Mamata making no secret of her wish to marginalise her former ally and even to overrun the last remaining bases of the Congress in the state.

Humayun Kabir, Congress MLA from Murshidabad and a loyalist of Minister of State for Railways Adhir Chowdhury resigned from the party to join Trinamool Congress. Another Congress MLA Krishnendu Chowdhury from the Congress stronghold of Malda district also joined the TMC.

Both Kabir and Chowdhury were rewarded as Mamata inducted them into the ministry.

A day after completing 16 months in power, Mamata effected the biggest reshuffle on November 21 giving preference to grassroots-level organisers in South Bengal with an eye on the forthcoming panchayat elections.

With an eye on next year's panchayat polls, Mamata showered more sops on the Muslim community including new loan schemes, creating an employment bank and promising official stamp on 10,000 madrasas. She declared monthly honorarium and housing subsidy for imams in the state.

The political climate in West Bengal also hotted up following a recent police-villagers clash at Loba village in Birbhum district allegedly over land acquisition issue.

After a month-long impasse, riddled with complaints of violence, cargo-handling firm Haldia Bulk Terminal (HBT) recently announced it was quitting Haldia port because of "unsafe" work conditions.

In a major victory for the Tatas, the Calcutta High Court on June 22 said the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011, is unconstitutional and invalid.

The victory was seen seen as a blow for the TMC supremo who had used Singur as one of her poll planks to oust the Communists from the state.

The state government has moved an appeal before the Supreme Court which has stayed the high court till further direction.