Having been a fiery youth leader once, the Jubo Andolan (youth movement) and its sentiments always get due importance when it comes to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
This is the reason why Shahid Diwas (Martyrs’ Day) on July 21 is one of the most important events for ‘Didi’ (as Mamata is popularly known) in Bengal. It is an annual mass rally organised by the Trinamool Congress in remembrance of 13 people gunned down by the Bengal police in Kolkata during a protest march organised by Mamata, who was then a Youth Congress leader, on July 21, 1993, while demanding voter identity card to be made the sole document for voting.
On several occasions, the Trinamool Congress chief has urged the state’s youths to come forward to join politics and carry the party’s mantle forward.
Mamata’s consistent efforts to woo youngsters came along with her strategy to draft her nephew Abhishek Banerjee in the TMC as president of the party’s youth wing in 2013. He has been serving as a Member of Parliament from the Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency in South 24 Parganas district since 2014.
His induction in TMC has irked many party leaders including Mukul Roy who openly raised his voice against him and later joined the BJP after differences with Abhishek and Mamata over various issues.
However, over the years Abhishek has emerged as one of the most influential leaders in Bengal’s politics when it comes to carrying forward the TMC’s ideology among the youths in the state. Recently, he issued instructions to district leaders not to include anyone above 40 years of age in the youth wing.
In the past nine years, after coming to power in 2011, Mamata, besides working on reforms, has also squeezed out more space for youngsters in TMC. So Suvendu Adhikari (the party’s key man in mobilising the masses during the Nandigram movement in East Midnapore), Mahua Moitra, Kargil war veteran (retd) Colonel Diptanshu Chaudhary (who looks after the TMC social media team), Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Pulak Roy, Nusrat Jahan (MP), Mimi Chakraborty (MP) were given prominent positions in the party.
Even on July 23, 2020, Mamata gave more prominence to young faces while forming a seven-member core committee to fine-tune strategies for the 2021 assembly elections in the state.
Also, the Nandigram movement (East Midnapore) in 2007 and Singur movement (Hooghly district) in 2008, which helped Mamata end the 34-year rule of the Left Front in Bengal, were led by young party leaders like Suvendu Adhikari and Becharam Manna.
A quick look at Mamata’s past political stand clearly shows how she always gave due importance to young efficient leaders in the party.
Mamata’s respect for the ‘Juba Shakti’ (youth power) is no secret to political experts; nor did the induction of election strategist Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC (run by young people) on June 6, 2019, as the TMC’s political advisor come as a surprise.
Mamata’s special focus on youngsters became evident once again on January 27, 2020. While addressing a huge gathering of young Trinamool workers and supporters at a student-youth workshop at Netaji Indoor Stadium, Kolkata, she thanked all the students who had joined the movement against the Centre’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
“The students and the youth are the future of this country; it is they who would lead. I am happy that the students have taken over the responsibility of the movement,” she had said.
But Mamata’s May 11, 2018, interview with a regional television channel came as a surprise for everyone. She said she had prepared a “political will” to take the TMC forward in the future.
While her statement is still doing the rounds in Bengal’s political circles with much speculation, her remark on July 21, 2020 (on Shahid Diwas) about “preparing dedicated youths for the TMC” as she “will not be there forever” has certainly come as an encrypted message on passing the baton to the youths.
“Chiro Kal Ami Thakbo Na…Kothay Amar Jubo Joddha Ra…Tomra Egiye Esho..Ami Toiri Kore Dey Jabo (I will not be there forever…Where are my young warriors…Step forward..I will train you to serve Bengal before I go),” Mamata said.
Speaking to News18.com, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said, “You are right that she has given importance to the youths. But do you think Abhishek Banerjee is any match to others in Bengal’s politics today? Mamata lost her popularity after she inducted her nephew in the party. Not only that, he was given more liberty than others in the party who were with her since the foundation of the party. I would like to ask her where are the TMC leaders who were with her in difficult times? Why were the party founders not given due respect? Can you see anyone today with her who used to fight for her before 2011? She promoted the ‘parivarvad’ (dynastic culture) in the party by ignoring the sentiments of other party leaders. Instead of Abhishek Banerjee, she should have promoted someone who actually sacrificed everything at her command.”
When asked whether she is quietly trying to pass the baton to Abhishek Banerjee to take the party forward in the future, Sinha said, “Everyone knows what is happening in the TMC now. Mamata ji is promoting ‘parivarvad’ and sidelining old party leaders. The biggest joke was Kunal Ghosh was recently appointed the party’s spokesperson. He is the same guy who was arrested by Kolkata police on Mamata’s instructions. I personally feel that she is an opportunist.”
Political expert Kapil Thakur feels that the TMC’s hunt for young leaders in the state under the banner of ‘Banglar Jubo Shakti’ (Bengal’s Youth Power) to create ‘Jubo Joddhas’ (Youth Warriors) is certainly Mamata’s future plan to strengthen the party with new faces in the coming years.
The Banglar Jubo Shakti campaign to create one lakh Jubo Joddhas in the state was launched by Abhishek Banerjee and 2,02,144 youths from 399 blocks and from 494 towns had reportedly been registered till June 29, 2020.
Jubo Joddhas is the brainchild of Prashant Kishor and party leaders feel that this will help the TMC to fill the political vacuum when it comes to taking the reins in future due to issues like ageing, health, differences of opinion among the existing leaders.
“The way Mamata is promoting Abhishek Banerjee, it certainly looks like she is trying to pass the baton to him to take the party forward. But, presently, I feel that there is not a single leader in the TMC who can fill Mamata’s space in the future,” Thakur said, adding, “It is also a fact that many TMC leaders distanced themselves from the party because of Abhishek. Again, it’s too early to speculate in politics because we have seen many impossible things have become possible here.”
No one in the Trinamool Congress was willing to comment on the matter but many claimed that the 2021 Shahid Diwas, as asserted by Mamata, will be historic in Bengal as the TMC will again come to power, breaking its previous record.
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