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When rivals turned cordial

All throughout Jyoti Basu’s chief ministership, Mamata Banerjee remained his bete noire. But eight years after the Marxist veteran stepped down, the two exchanged pleasantries.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2010 13:46 IST

All throughout Jyoti Basu’s chief ministership, Mamata Banerjee remained his bete noire. But eight years after the Marxist veteran stepped down, the two exchanged pleasantries. The Trinamool Congress chief was twice invited by Basu to find a solution to the land crisis at Singur and Nandigram and obliged on both occasions.

But there had been many a hurdle before the cordial meetings. In 1990, Mamata was badly beaten up at Hazra, when she was leading a political demonstration. Two year later, the police lifted her and carried her out of Writers’ Buildings when the then Union Minister of State sat on a dharna in front of Basu’s chamber at the secretariat. In 1993, a public rally at East Esplanade turned bloody when the police clashed with people. Mamata escaped police action as party workers managed to take her away from the venue.

Five years later, Mamata drew first political blood when the newly formed Trinamool Congress won eight parliamentary seats. She repeated the feat the next year. As Mamata consolidated her position, the CPI(M) — fearing that the incumbency factor would work against the Left in Bengal — asked Basu to step aside and replaced him with his deputy, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Soon after, Basu requested that the party relieve him of his day-to-day responsibilities as chief minister, citing health grounds.

Mamata, whose political vengeance had till then been directed at Basu, changed tack. Paying rich tributes to Basu, the firebrand leader described Basu’s retirement as the end of an era. She now geared up to train guns on Bhattacharjee.

The Basu-Mamata relation reached its climax when the Left Front requested the nonagenarian leader to talk to the Trinamool Congress chief and find a solution to the Singur and Nandigram stalemates.

In a historic remark, Basu told Mamata that time was coming for her to rule Bengal, but she should cooperate with the Marxist government now for the development of industry. On Basu’s request, Mamata agreed to talk to Bhattacharjee on Singur in the presence of Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi. Basu and Mamata met twice to but politics gained precedence over pleasantries and she refused to relent.

But that did not stop Mamata from singing praise for Basu, who she termed a political icon, or wishing him on every birthday of the communist leader.