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The untold truths of the woman who came from nowhere to become Didi

Shutapa Paul talks to Smita Singh about her book 'Didi: The Untold Story of Mamata Banerjee', where she details the tribulations of being a leader.

With her unique style of politics, Mamata Banerjee has managed to maintain her clout in the age of Modi. Didi: The Untold Story of Mamata Banerjee is a gripping narrative on the firebrand politician from Bengal who is poised to play a decisive role in the 2019 Lok Sabha pollls. Read it to understand Mamata and TMC’s growth in Bengal and beyond. Here is what the author Shutapa Paul has to say about the book.

Balanced take, not hagiography

I have written this biography as an objective, unbiased take on Mamata Banerjee while chronicling her life and times, achievements and failures. I have critiqued the state’s stance on land acquisition that has caused it to remain unattractive to big industry. The state has several green shoots of development to boast of but it still lacks a more pointed, well-planned, futuristic vision statement.

Challenges of writing unauthorised

Writing an unauthorised biography is challenging as well as exciting. When the protagonist comes on board, then telling the story becomes a lot easier. However, since this was not so, I had to find all the leads myself. After several people backed out from interviews, I devised novel ways to tell the story. Finding her teachers, especially one of her favourites, was difficult but also most rewarding. I was also lucky to have gotten perhaps the last interview of ex-LS Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, few months before his death.

Qualities that set ‘Didi’ apart

Mamata ‘Di’ is a grassroots leader. This is her most impressive quality and strength. She has her finger on the pulse of the people. This instinct or knowledge is a powerful quality in any politician. However, centralising all authority in her hands and lack of a strong second rung leadership, stand to negatively impact TMC’s future.

On playing a bigger national role

A lot has changed from the past six months and the run-up to 2019 LS polls promises more political drama. In the eventuality that neither Congress nor BJP get a majority, parties such as the TMC, TRS, TDP etc. will play a major role in government formation with Congress’s support. In such a scenario, Mamata’s long political career and amicable relations with most other parties makes her one of the frontrunners for prime ministership. Even if we do not see a Federal Front forming the government, Mamata still stands a chance to play kingmaker…

And the insensitivity to the Park Street rape victim…?

Why politicians alone? I think most women are insensitive to the plight of others of the same gender. We must remember that only if we come together can we make true progress. This has been a patriarchal world for far too long. And even though things are changing, women must help each other in all ways possible in order to bring lasting change in society, politics and the corporate board room.

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