Politics

Meera Sanyal, AAP Leader and Former Banker, Passes Away

Sanyal was the India chief of the Royal Bank of Scotland when she decided to make the unusual decision to plunge into alternative politics.

Mumbai: Banker-turned-politician Meera Sanyal, who was one of the most popular faces of the Aam Aadmi Party, died here on Friday after a brief illness. She was 57.

Sanyal contested the Lok Sabha elections from Mumbai twice, in 2009 and 2014, each time unsuccessfully, but left her mark on the life of the city by public-spirited interventions on a range of civic issues.

According to Preeti Sharma Menon of the Aam Aadmi Party, Sanyal had been suffering from cancer.

Sanyal’s decision to leave the world of corporate affairs or business and enter politics may not have been unique but most of those who made the transition did so by joining an established political party and often for less than altruistic reasons. Sanyal saw the two principal national parties, the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party, as being responsible for the country’s woes and was determined to chart a separate course.

In 2009, she fought as an independent candidate from the South Mumbai constituency, which includes some of the city’s toniest areas and several middle class neighbourhoods and slums. Her call then was for clean politics. The 2014 elections saw her stand as a candidate of the Aam Aadmi Party.

After the 2009 election, she took it upon herself to revive Freedom First, the magazine of the Swatantra Party – which played a short but significant role as a right-of-centre opposition to Jawaharlal Nehru on economic issues before fading into irrelevance.

A banker for over 30 years, Sanyal was the India chief of the Royal Bank of Scotland at the time she entered alternative politics full time. She became a full time campaigner for civic issues in Mumbai, taking up the issue of ‘coal mountains’ – storage of coal on open land – in the eastern part of the city, which was causing a lot of air pollution.  The campaign was successful and the practice of storing coal was stopped.

Apli Mumbai, the citizens group she founded, was also in the forefront of an important campaign to utilise land owned by the Mumbai Port Trust for public purposes. The Eastern Waterfront, as the area is called, is dotted with derelict warehouses and disused factories and Apli Mumbai had prepared a plan to create parks, public leisure centres and education and cultural hubs on the land instead of merely farming it out to private builders for housing.

Sanyal also wrote a book last year, The Big Reverse: How Demonetization Knocked India Out, critiquing the move and calling it an ‘unmitigated disaster.’

The daughter of Vice Admiral G.H. Hiranandani, she is survived by her husband Ashish Sanyal and two children.

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