Mamata Banerjee is by far the biggest leader in West Bengal politics even though she has just completed her first five-year term in office. She made a history in 2011 by ending the 34-year-run of the Left Front, prompting even voices from abroad to congratulate her.
Banerjee's Trinamool Congress (TMC) has been performing well in elections even before it came to power in 2011 and continued to dominate the state's political scene even after issues like Saradha broke. Her party won 34 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats from Bengal in 2014.
But in terms of governance, she has faced a serious flak. The Opposition, media and the common people have accused her of failing as an administrator---be it ensuring safety of the citizens including women or bringing investment in the state which is economically struggling. She has been accused of being insensitive towards people, intolerant towards any question and going soft on motormouths and tainted leaders in her party.
In the upcoming elections, the Left Front and Congress have reached an electoral understanding to dethrone Mamata Banerjee and a number of opinion polls have suggested that the two sides could finish with almost 50-50 vote-share though the TMC migh win more seats to form the government again.
A single firebrand politician who is known for leading an austere life in a humble dwelling in South Kolkata, Banerjee's trademark cotton sari, a pair of rubber sandals and often a cotton bag hanging from her shoulders made her an iconic figure of humbleness in an otherwise dazzling world of Indian politics.
West Bengal will go to a seven-phase election between April 4 and May 5 with the results to be announced on May 19.
Here is a look at brief profile of Mamata Banerjee.
Date and place of birth: Mamata Banerjee was born on January 5, 1955, in Kolkata, West Bengal.
Family history: Banerjee was born in a lower middle-class family to Promileshwar Banerjee and Gayatri Devi. Her father died due to lack of medical treatment when she was just 17. She completed her higher secondary education in 1970 and graduated in history from Jogamaya Devi College in southern Kolkata. She also earned a few other degrees later in her life. She is known to be a poet and painting and also has a number of books to her credit.
Political career: Banerjee got involved in politics during her student days. She made the headlines for allegedly dancing on the bonnet of the late socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan during his days of struggle against the poweful regime of Indira Gandhi. As a member of the Congress, Mamata Banerjee continued to grow through the ranks.
She served as the general-secretary of the state Mahila Congress between 1976-80 and made a big entry at the national stage in 1984 by defeating heavyweight Left leader Somnath Chatterjee from Jadavpur constituency in South Kolkata.At 29, she became one of India's youngest MPs and later became the general secretary of the All India Youth Congress. She was also known to be close to late Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi.
During her entire career in which she followed the single-point agenda of defeating the communists in Bengal, Banerjee faced brutality of the state a number of times but never gave up. She lost the 1989 parliamentary election, the year the Congress faced an anti-wave, but was back in Parliament in 1991.She settled for the Kolkata South seat and got elected from there in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009. In the 2004 general election, Banerjee was the only leader to have got elected to Parliament from the TMC. She had also served as minister under both Congress- and BJP-ruled governments at the Centre. In 2011, she became an MLA for the first time after her party came to power. She contested from Bhabanipur constituency in South Kolkata to become the chief minister of Bengal.
Forming the Trinamool Congress: Banerjee formed her ownTMC on January 1, 1998, after pulling out of the Congress. She accused the Congress of having an understanding with the Left in West Bengal and not being honest in the fight against the communists. Her party tasted victory for the first time in 2000 when it wrested the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
However, in the Assembly elections, the TMC lost heavily in 2001 and 2006 polls despite having alliances with the Congress and BJP, respectively, and succeeded in 2011 when it fought jointly with the Congress.
The alliance, however, lasted till late 2012 after she pulled out of the UPA at the Centre and she has contested elections alone since then. This year, the Left and Congress have reached an electoral understanding to topple Mamata Banerjee. In 2001, she came out of the NDA after a corruption charge was brought against it.
The twist in the TMC's fortune for the better came in 2006-07 in the wake of the Singur and Nandigram movements as these played a big role in Banerjee's rise over the next few years, culminating in her biggest victory in 2011.