They met in Kolkata in 2012. Hillary Clinton, then the US secretary of state, came all the way to meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. It was the first-ever visit by a US secretary of state to the state's secretariat.
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Though according to experts Clinton's visit was more a part of a mission to address Bangladesh's (the country which she also visited during that trip) internal political differences and take the West Bengal administration into confidence to felicitate Washington's agenda in South Asia, on the face of it Clinton was more keen to meet a woman leader who toppled a communist regime which was in power for 34 long years.
Four years have gone by since the two leaders, once listed among the 100 top influenctial people in the world by the Time magazine, met and in the year 2016, the same two individuals are in the news again. While Mamata Banerjee is fighting a strong anti-incumbency while aiming to return to power in the state, Clinton is also fighting an anti-incumbency of sort against her Democratic Party and a strong rival in Bernie Sanders in the race for the next occupant of the White House.
The roads for Mamata and Hillary have not been easy
If luck favours them, Banerjee will continue to remain the first woman chief minister of West Bengal while Clinton will go on to become the first woman president of the world's only superpower, an opportunity she lost in 2008. But so far, their roads have not been very easy.
The two leaders started off their respective campaigns for the top posts confidently but a series of events of late have checked their momentum. While a sting operation conducted by a news channel has raised serious allegations against leaders of Banerjee's Trinamool Congress (TMC) accepting bribes for a favour, Clinton's campaigning has received a blow in the latest primaries/caucuses as she lost to Sanders in the six of the last seven contests.
The duo still lead but there are enough reasons to be nervous
It is not that Banerjee and Clinton have been derailed by these occurrences and they still have a lead over the opponents, but there are enough reasons for them to feel nervous.
Clinton will be perhaps more nervy when compared to Banerjee since she has a more potent rival in Sanders. At the moment, Clinton is leading against Sanders by just 250 delegates (excluding the superdelegates) and with important states waiting to go to polling, Clinton's campaign team will need to work harder to beat Sanders, who has successfully appealed to voters who are fed up with the country's trypical establishment voices, including that of Clinton.
Compared to the former secretary of state's position in US politics 2012, things do not seem as rosy, thanks to the email and Libya episodes.
Banerjee, too, is seen as an administrator who has failed to deliver on key issues like economy and employment but still she has an edge in the ongoing election in Bengal, thanks to her vulnerable opponents.
Still Mamata will feel better as she her opponents are not looking very organised
The Left and the Congress, both of which have been weakened in the state's politics over the years, have although come together to challenge Banerjee but they are still not strong enough to defeat the ruling party in various key constituencies of the state, the issue of corruption notwithstanding.
Even winning the immediate elections doesn't end the challenges for the two
There is another similarity in the stories of Banerjee and Clinton and that is about their rivalry that waits at a distance in case they win.
If Banerjee wins her second term as the chief minister, she will have to do a lot of dealings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA government at the Centre if the struggling state of Bengal has to be brought out of its misery; on the other hand, if Clinton manages to beat Sanders to win the nomination, an even harder battle will await her in the November 8 general elections.
If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, then Clinton will have to put every resource at her disposal to beat the anti-incumbency against the Democrats and script history.
Till then, Clinton might envy Banerjee for fighting a relatively easier battle.