Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief, very appropriately described herself when she said, "I am a streetfighter". Clad in a cotton saree, sporting a jhola (bag) and a Hawaii chappal, the 66-year-old leader has often taken her fights to streets and roughed it out -- be it defeating CPI(M) veteran Somanth Chatterjee in 1984 Lok Sabha elections, breaking away from the Congress to float her own Trinamool Congress in 1998 or terminating the 34-year rule of the Left in 2011.
In West Bengal Assembly election 2021 too, when everyone thought that the Chief Minister had been fenced in by massive exodus, including that of senior leaders and close aides, from the party to the BJP, the first woman chief minister of the state decided to take the battle to the enemy's den. She announced her candidature from Nandigram, renouncing Bhowanipore her 'safe' seat of 10 years, to contest from Nandigram against her one time close aide Suvendu Adhikari who is contesting on a BJP ticket.
That Nandigram is her new battlefied comes with its own significance, considering that Didi, as Mamata is called in West Bengal, took on the might of the Left in 2005 by opposing the land acquisition policy in 2005 and Nandigram was the epicentre of the protest. Providing the support system for the agitation that propelled Mamata to power was the Adhikari family.
Mamata Banerjee, known to lead a spartan life, is not the one to shy away from a good political fight. As a student leader in 1975, she made headlines when she danced on the car of socialist activist and politician Jayaprakash Narayan. The same Jayaprakash Narayan who had shaken the Delhi throne of then prime minister Indira Gandhi with his call for mass 'revolution' against her.
In her 30s, Mamata made headlines again when she was hit on the head by DYFI leader Lalu Alam on August 16, 1990. Her skull was fractured in the attack and she spent many days in a hospital. This incident made her a household name and a hero of sorts.
In 1993, in another protest that caught the attention of the country, Mamata laid seige to then Chief Minister Jyoti Basu's office demanding justice for a rape survivor. After failing to evict her, police dragged her by the hair and drove off with her to a police station.
Such was her clout that when Mamata parted ways with the Congress in 1998, she almost walked away with the entire Congress unit, reducing the party to a fringe player in the state. From then on it became a Mamata versus the Left war in the state till she trounced them in 2011. Before taking over as the chief minister, Mamata -- daughter of Promileswar Banerjee and Gayetri Devi -- served twice as minister of railways, minister of coal, and HRD, youth affairs and sports, women and child development in the union cabinet.
Once again, the 'street figher' chief minister is in the middle of an intense battle. Fighting one of the the toughest political wars of her life -- with an aggressive BJP putting up a tough fight for Assembly elections -- Mamata is holding rallies, doing roadshows and matching the BJP word-for-word. All from a wheelchair, after she was injured in an alleged attack in Nandigram, and minus many party stalwarts who have jumped the ship to join the BJP.
But as they say, 'when the going goes tough, didi goes street-fighting'. We will know the outcome of this fight on May 2, when votes will be counted after an eight-phase election in the state.