Man of the moment: Abhishek Banerjee is the TMC star to watch out for

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • Updated: Jul 21, 2015 15:16 IST

As Mamata Banerjee holds the Martyrs' Day rally on Tuesday, the biggest annual political event on her party Trinamool Congress' calendar, all eyes will be on Abhishek Banerjee, the 27-year-old nephew of the West Bengal chief minister and the heir apparent to the party supremo's throne.

Abhishek, who is the Lok Sabha MP from Diamond Harbour, has taken less than five years to rise from nowhere to become the virtual 'number two' in the party machinery – leaving all the senior leaders behind – as party chief Mamata herself helped her beloved nephew up the party ranks in a phased manner.

He will be presiding over the programme held at Esplanade, the nerve centre of the city, where at least a few dozen party leaders, who are senior to him both in age and experience, will be present. Though Mamata will be the key speaker, the event has been designed to project the articulate MP as the number two in the party, something that has been the subject of feverish speculation since former number two Mukul Roy was sidelined earlier this year.

Read: Mamata’s nephew hits Trinamool Congress with Maoist bomb

In fact, despite the popular impression that Roy had paid the price for speaking out against the party leader to the CBI sleuths probing the Saradha mess, a major source of difference between him and Mamata was the rising position of Abhishek and not Roy's son Subhrangshu, an MLA from North 24 Parganas district.

Not only has Abhishek's stature grown continuously within the party, he has also been entrusted with dealing with important affairs both within and outside the party.

After he won the Lok Sabha polls, Abhishek has increasingly started to address organisational matters. He has also been allowed by Mamata to take on the likes of Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in important public meetings, thereby sending a clear signal that he has arrived on the scene to participate in and influence the most vital decisions of the party.

On a personal level, Mamata is extremely fond of her nephew.

An MBA postgraduate (2009) from New Delhi's Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Abhishek has been targeted by opposition parties such as the CPI(M) and the BJP for his quickly growing assets (Rs 1.52 crore in 2014), and controversial bank transactions with his companies, and sometimes for his behaviour and statements.

Mamata took the first initiative to politically launch her nephew ahead of the historic Bengal assembly polls in 2011, when posters, banners and hoarding calling for change issued by a hitherto unknown entity Yuva, dotted Kolkata. Yuva was officially launched as a youth wing of the party, headed by Abhishek, on Trinamool's Martyrs' Day rally on July 21.

But his aunt did not push him into the poll contest.

This new youth outfit was formed despite the presence of the party's youth wing named Trinamool Youth Congress, headed by Tamluk MP Suvendu Adhikary, arguably the most popular Trinamool leader after the party chief.

The parallel youth wing, however, irked Adhikary and that was the beginning of a phase of cold relation between Mamata and Suvendu that lasted until the recent tussle between her and the party's de facto number two, Mukul Roy. Gradually, Abhishek became the chief of the youth wing and Yuva was disbanded.

Abhishek has frequently hit headlines because of his controversial comments as well.

Once he made a personal attack on BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh by saying, "If Lal Bahadur Shastri had known how his grandson would turn out to be, he would have remained unmarried." Soon, he stoked another controversy by saying that all that the Jadavpur University students were fighting for was the liberty to have drugs, ganja and alcohol on the campus.

And in January this year, Abhishek did nothing to save a mentally ill youth, who was almost lynched by Trinamool workers after he slapped him in East Midnapore district. His most recent public comment that triggered a storm was that his party will not hesitate to chop off the hands of the Opposition supporters if they dared to create trouble.

The aggressive MP is regularly deployed to lead party programmes in Kolkata and New Delhi as well. Being Mamata's projected heir, it is only expected to see him rise and rise in the party ranks.

Read: The rise of Abhishek Banerjee, Mamata's foul-mouthed nephew

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