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The rise and rise of Amit Mitra

Calcutta, Feb. 26: Mamata Banerjee has appointed Amit Mitra the national spokesperson of the Trinamul Congress, the assignment indicating she is banking on the low-key Khardah MLA to bolster her attempts to play a bigger role in national politics.

Mitra’s primary responsibility as spokesperson will be to speak on Bengal’s development model, Trinamul sources said.

The announcement was made on Trinamul’s website and the party’s official Twitter handle.

Trinamul’s Rajya Sabha chief whip, Derek O’ Brien, who has been the party’s face in the national media and the cyber world, will assist Mitra, also the finance and industries minister.

“Didi trusts Amitda a lot. First, she gave him the charge of the key industries and finance departments. Now, she has made him the party’s national spokesperson. It is clear that he is important in her scheme of things,” a Trinamul leader close to Mamata said.

According to Trinamul sources, Mitra’s job as spokesperson would involve speaking about the Mamata government’s achievements — the social welfare schemes and development projects initiated by the chief minister — to a national audience.

Highlighting her success in front of a larger audience is the need of the hour for Mamata as she is keen on playing a bigger role in national politics. In her meetings at Agartala and Guwahati in the past two days, Mamata spoke at length on her pet schemes.

“Mitra is the best person to give a clear picture of what is happening in Bengal. He is a good speaker, well conversant in English and Hindi, and can address development issues with the finesse of a theoretician,” a source said.

An alumnus of the erstwhile Presidency College and Delhi School of Economics, Mitra did his PhD in economics from Duke University.

When Mamata became the chief minister in 2011, she gave Mitra the responsibility of pulling Bengal out of the alleged financial mess created by the Left government. Mitra, a former Ficci secretary-general, had got close to Mamata during her tenure as the railway minister.

After Mamata gave him the charge of the industries department, replacing Partha Chatterjee, in addition to the finance ministry, it became apparent that Mitra was fast moving up the pecking order.

“Didi thinks Amitda can be an asset in the Hindi belt, an area where she wants to make her presence felt,” a Trinamul source said.

After Anna Hazare said he would campaign for “good Trinamul candidates” put up by Mamata in the Lok Sabha elections, sources had said the social activist would select nominees who would contest from states like Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Trinamul insiders said that having spent several years in Delhi and with his contacts in the corporate world and the bureaucracy, Mitra could complement Hazare.

A section in Trinamul, however, expressed surprise at Mitra’s “sudden” appointment as the national spokesperson.

“He has two important departments to look after. How will he find the time?” a minister said. “A national spokesperson will have to spend time in Delhi. The question is whether Mitra will have enough time,” he added.

Trinamul sources said the party was thinking of appointing another spokesperson for Hindi-speaking voters.