A tailor-made fight by the riverside - In the name of the brother & Didi

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By AHANA CHAUDHURI
  • Published 25.05.10
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Tanima Chatterjee, 51, likes sewing and listening to Rabindrasangeet. Wearing a red-bordered taant sari, a pair of golden-framed glasses and a small red bindi on her forehead, she is the quintessential middle-class Bengali woman, who could be spotted walking down Gariahat Road on a leisurely afternoon gently brushing off hawkers.

But there’s more to her: Tanima is contesting the municipal elections with a Trinamul Congress ticket from ward 87, which extends from Rashbehari Avenue in the north to the Eastern Railway line behind Rabindra Sarobar in the south.

There’s even more to her: she is the younger sister of former mayor of Calcutta Subrata Mukherjee. The same ward had elected her brother for the last two consecutive terms; now she has been handed the baton.

Seated inside the ward office, issuing instructions to party-workers for the evening’s campaigning session, Chatterjee seems to have the same air of placidity that her brother forever exudes.

Tanima insists that her identity as Subrata Mukherjee’s sibling is not her only claim to fame. “I have not reached this position overnight, and not simply by virtue of being Subrata Mukherjee’s sister,” she declares.

Text: Tamaghna Banerjee; Pictures: Sanat Kumar Sinha and Tamaghna Banerjee

She is also quick to point out that politics is more than skin-deep. “Interest in politics has to come from within. I was an active member of the Chhatra Parishad in college and I’m not new to politics. After graduating from college, I have been professionally engaged with Intuc as well,” she says.

She does concede she has derived invaluable lessons from her brother. One of them could be joining the Trinamul, abandoning the Congress. “My decision to leave the Congress and join Trinamul was spurred by the desire to put an end to Left rule that has ruined the state,” she justifies.

She sings a paean to her brother, dismissing the need for improvement of ward 87, which she calls the “model ward”.

The ward covers Sarat Bose Road, Baroj Road, Shyamaprasad Mukherjee Road and the areas around Rabindra Sarobar, Menoka cinema and Lake Market. It comprises some of Calcutta’s best plots.

“Minor problems keep cropping up,” she says, and promises prompt remedial action if she is elected.

Candidates against Tanima are the Revolutionary Communist Party of India’s Simki Sengupta (RCPI is an ally of the Left Front) and Poulami Mitra from the Congress. Tanima is expected to have it easy in Subrata Mukherjee territory.

What about complaints of irregular water supply? Tanima blames it on Left misrule: the government agencies reduced the duration and the pressure of the water supplied.

Some residents had protested the construction of a swimming pool on the Southern Avenue boulevard, on the initiative of Subrata Mukherjee. They saw it as a blow to the environment.

But Tanima is proud of the swimming pool. Her brother took into account the requests of a number of local residents who were keen on having a pool easily accessible to their children, she says, denying any opposition.

“The residents will testify to the amount of hard work that my brother put in to ensure that people have access to basic amenities and clean surroundings,” she says, sipping from a glass of piping hot tea. But residents, too, have to work hard. “It is essential for them to take responsibility to keep their environment clean,” she adds.

Above all, there is the lady from Kalighat. “Only Mamata Banerjee is capable of bringing about change,” Tanima smiles. Calmly.