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West Bengal cabinet senior, 1970s’ ‘Young Turk’ Subrata Mukherjee passes away at 75 | Kolkata News


KOLKATA: Senior Trinamool Congress minister Subrata Mukherjee died at SSKM hospital on Thursday evening after suffering a stent thrombosis days after undergoing an angioplasty. He was 75.
Mukherjee was shifted to the ICU around 8.15pm when his condition suddenly deteriorated. CM Mamata Banerjee, who rushed to the hospital along with her cabinet colleagues, stepped out to say, “I had never thought such darkness would descend when we celebrate the festival of lights. I can’t even come to terms with this loss. He suffered a massive cardiac arrest. The doctors, his wife, his well-wishers, tried all they could have done. But we could not save him.”
Mukherjee’s body will be taken to Rabindra Sadan at 10am on Friday for people to pay their respects. “I will not go there. I cannot see Subratada like this. I have faced many adversities, but this is perhaps the toughest for me to deal with,” an emotional Banerjee said.
A young minister in the Siddhartha Shankar Ray cabinet in 1972, Mukherjee wore many hats in his long political career. He was Kolkata mayor, member of the governing body of the ILO, Pradesh Congress working president and a Trinamool Congress minister since 2011.
Mukherjee started his political career as a student activist in Kolkata. He joined the Chhatra Parishad in the 1960s. During this period he made the acquaintance of Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi and the two went on to become close aides of former PM Indira Gandhi. CPM leaders had coined a slogan — “Indirar dui putra, Priyoranjan o Subrata (Indira’s two sons, Priyaranjan and Subrata) — for the two.
His association with Dasmunsi and his running feud with another city Congress satrap, Somen Mitra, was the stuff of state political lore in the 1970s and the 1980s; one of the stories involved two red-beacon cars monitoring street fights between two Congress factions at the College Street-Surya Sen Street crossing in the mid-1970s.
In 1971 and 1972, Mukherjee was elected to the legislative assembly from the Ballygunge Assembly constituency. In 1972, he became the youngest minister at 26 years when he was appointed a minister of state in the Siddhartha Shankar Ray cabinet.
Veteran politicians recalled how Bengal CM Banerjee was often called a Subrata Mukherjee protege in state Congress circles. To his credit, Mukherjee remained one of Banerjee’s most solid backers in the Trinamool to his last. When Banerjee severed her ties with the Congress to form her own party, Mukherjee set aside seniority and backed her. In 1999, he joined the Trinamool Congress and was made mayor of Kolkata in 2000.
Mukherjee was the first KMC mayor from a non-LF party in quite some time when the LF was in office. Mukherjee was credited with bringing in a bit of glasnost and modern, pragmatic administration in the hide-bound KMC. It often involved run-ins with his own party but he managed to have his way a few times. But ahead of the civic polls in 2005, Mukherjee quit Trinamool Congress following differences with the party chief, and joined the Nationalist Congress Party. He was able to cobble up an alliance with Congress and several marginal players under the platform of Paschimbanga Unnayan Mancha. Although he was able to get elected to the corporation, his front suffered a humiliating defeat. He returned to the Trinamool fold in 2010.
Mukherjee was also known and respected for his in-depth knowledge of parliamentary politics and legal nitty-gritty. He was often known to advise other ministers and MLAs, even from the Left Front ministry, on assembly rules.
A survivor to the core, Mukherjee also kept himself afloat during the heydays of Left rule in Bengal. As a trade unionist, he was close to former CM Jyoti Basu, and his successor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. His detractors introduced the term “tarmuj” (water melon, green outside and red inside) for Mukherjee, Somen Mitra and some other state Congress leaders. Mukherjee, however, took it in his stride working within the parameters set by his own party.
Mukherjee’s political guru, Dasmunsi, died in 2017. His one-time rival, Somen Mitra, passed away in 2020. Mukherjee’s death brings to an end these associations and rivalries. It also marks the end of an era in state and Congress politics that saw the rapid rise of local Young Turks, who fell as rapidly but then — much more slowly and gradually — reclaimed their own political space.

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