In a political career spanning more than five decades, beginning with Congress and later with the TMC, West Bengal minister Subrata Mukherjee wore many hats.
Besides being a deft politician and proficient administrator, Subrata Mukherjee was known for his oratorial skills, earning him the praise of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Mukherjee was also the political mentor of Mamata Banerjee during her initial years in Chhatra Parishad, the student wing of the Congress, in the late 1970s. He also acted in a television serial alongside Moon Moon Sen in the late 1980s.
Subrata Mukherjee, who held the panchayat and rural development portfolios in the Bengal government, passed away on Thursday after a prolonged illness in Kolkata.
Mukherjee, born in 1946 in South 24 Parganas district, began his political career in the 1960s as a student leader when West Bengal had its first non-Congress government.
A graduate of anthropology and a master’s degree holder in archaeology, Mukherjee’s organisational skills and oratory saw him rise quickly through the ranks and soon became one of the most popular leaders of the Congress, even catching the eye of then PM Indira Gandhi.
Impressed by Mukherjee, late Union minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi took him under his wings and the duo took upon the challenge to fight the ideological and political battle with the Naxalites and the Left in Bengal.
Mukherjee became the youngest MLA in the West Bengal Assembly after winning the Ballygunge seat in 1971. He was just 25 years old then.
In 1972, he became the youngest minister in the Siddhartha Shankar Ray cabinet after the Congress returned to power. He was made the minister of state for information and culture.
Mukherjee was the political mentor of Mamata Banerjee when she burst on to the scene as a fiery leader of the Chhatra Parishad in the late 1970s.
Mukherjee had proposed Banerjee’s name as the Congress candidate against then CPI(M) stalwart Somnath Chatterjee from the Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat in the 1984 Lok Sabha election. Banerjee went on to defeat Chatterjee.
He switched over to the TMC a year after the party was formed in 1998 by Mamata Banerjee. His acumen as an able administrator was widely praised during his tenure as the mayor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) from 2000 to 2005.
Despite being in the TMC, Mukherjee also maintained close ties with CPI(M) leaders, including the then chief minister Jyoti Basu.
In 2005, due to differences with Banerjee, he left the TMC and formed an alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party. He later went back to the Congress in 2005, only to leave the party again in 2010 to join the TMC.
In 2011, he was elected from the Ballygunge seat as a TMC candidate and was given the panchayats and rural development charge. During his tenure, West Bengal earned laurels for being one of the top-performing states in the implementation of the MGNREGA scheme.
Just ahead of the 2016 Assembly polls, Mukherjee’s name cropped up in the Narada sting tape case along with a few other TMC leaders. He, however, denied any involvement in the case.