Mamata addresses Trinamul workers at the Pailan event as Abhishek greets the audience with folded hands. Picture by Sanat Kr Sinha
Pailan, March 18: Mamata Banerjee today sought to draw a distinction between those “born with a golden spoon” and others who just happen to have relatives in politics, addressing an issue used by critics to needle her over her nephew’s career.
Referring to Abhishek Banerjee at a Trinamul workers’ meeting in South 24-Parganas’ Pailan, Mamata said: “I didn’t want him to get into politics with backing, like people born with a golden spoon in their mouth. I have sent him here to work with you and learn.”
Abhishek is the Trinamul candidate from Diamond Harbour in the Lok Sabha elections.
Trinamul sources said Mamata usually steered clear of making public references to her family, but she broached the topic today because her decision to give Abhishek the ticket had drawn comment in private in the party.
At today’s meeting, all four Trinamul candidates from the district — Sugata Bose (Jadavpur), C.M. Jatua (Mathurapur), Pratima Mandal (Joynagar) and Abhishek — were present along with Calcutta South nominee Subrata Bakshi.
Mamata began her address by introducing the four candidates one by one. Abhishek, who sat next to Bose throughout the meeting, was the last to be introduced.
Pointing out that Abhishek had been involved in politics “for a long time”, the Trinamul chief said: “From his childhood, he was keen on joining politics. He has been involved in political activities for a long time.”
Abhishek stood up to wave at the 5,000-odd Trinamul workers who had assembled at the Pailan Haat Ground, which falls under the Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha seat.
At the rally she addressed at Brigade in January, Mamata had expressed her disapproval of Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister, saying she did not want “rajtantra (dynasty)”.
When she was asked during an interview on TimesNow on March 6 if there would be dynastic succession in Trinamul, Mamata had replied with a question: “Why haven’t you said all this to Sonia Gandhi’s family?”
When the interviewer said he had posed a similar question to Rahul, the chief minister had replied: “No, first you ask Sonia Gandhi this and other people, then you ask me this question. Otherwise, I am not going to answer it, because it is a motivated question and you know that I do not have a family, which will succeed me…. Do not single me out like this.”
After Trinamul came to power in 2011, Mamata formed the All India Trinamul Yuva with Abhishek at the helm.
Abhishek has spoken at important party forums and campaigned for Trinamul in the panchayat and civic polls last year. Some critics had wondered what role the Trinamul Yuva would play at a time the party’s youth wing, Trinamul Youth Congress, was already in place.
According to Trinamul leaders close to Mamata, reports of resentment among the leadership in the districts over her choice of some candidates had reached her and she thought it prudent to intervene before campaigning began in full swing.
During today’s address, Mamata made it clear that she wanted the party to present a united face.
“Ke kaar lok, kotha theke esechhe, pochhondo ki pochhondo noy, eta akhon alochona korar din noy (this is not the time to discuss which candidate is loyal to whom, where the nominee has come from or whether you like him or not). All of you have to take the pledge that you will help them win,” she said.
A senior Trinamul leader said that although Mamata was “unhappy” with the posters and banners of Abhishek that she saw on her way to the airport recently, there was “never any doubt” about his getting the ticket.
The Trinamul sources said that as the general election would be a four-cornered fight, Mamata wanted her entire force to work together to achieve her goal of becoming the third-largest party in the Lok Sabha.
A section of Trinamul leaders is also unhappy with the nomination of Harvard professor Bose from Jadavpur.
Mamata tried to assure the workers that Bose would spend time in the constituency.
“Even now, he stays in Calcutta for 200 days (a year). If he gets elected, he will be here all 365 days. Even when his mother was an MP, he used to handle most of the responsibilities of the constituency,” Mamata said.