Mamata Banerjee at her alma mater on Friday. (Amit Datta)
Mamata Banerjee, the former student, walked down the memory lane while Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister, promised help to upgrade Jogamaya Devi College at the closing ceremony of the 80th anniversary celebrations of the south Calcutta institution on Friday.
“I, as a former student of this college, will be happy if I can do something for the betterment of this institution,” said Mamata in her speech. She had graduated from the college with history honours in the mid-1970s.
During her hour-and-a-half stay on the campus, a few hundred metres from her Harish Chatterjee Street home, the chief minister was in a jovial mood.
A day after a Trinamul-sponsored no-confidence motion fell through in Parliament, she advised students to never lose heart in defeat. “One may face defeat in a moral fight. But I must tell you that don’t compromise on moral values. If you ask me, I can say that nobody can defeat me in a moral fight.”
On the whole, she was more inclined to turn back the clock than dispense advice in her first visit to the college as the chief minister. She pointed out that as a student she had organised meetings and made speeches at the same venue.
“I performed at many cultural programmes at this place. I remember how we used to gather here on Saraswati Puja and draw alpana,” said Mamata.
The chief minister expressed hope that the college would become a university one day and urged the authorities to draw up a plan for modernising the campus. “This college is important in many ways. Subjects like geography and botany are taught very well here. Please think of ways to modernise this college,” she told the gathering.
Mamata admitted to paucity of funds to develop state-aided colleges but promised to extend a helping hand to her alma mater. But not by acquiring land to set up another campus. “I will not acquire land at gunpoint. I will also not evict people by force. This is not my policy,” she said.
When a member of the audience asked her how the college would get land for expansion, she replied: “You arrange for the land. We will give you all other support.”
During her speech, the chief minister wondered why her cabinet colleagues Madan Mitra and Partha Chatterjee, alumni of Asutosh College — one of the two institutions that share a campus with Jogmaya Devi College — had skipped the programme despite being invited.
“Parthada and Madan were also supposed to be here as they too had been invited. I don’t know why they have not attended this function,” said Mamata.