What’s common between Vijay Mallya and Mamata Banerjee? It seems ‘good times’ are over for both of them.
It’s a body blow for the 10-month-old Trinamool Congress government in Bengal, which came to power riding on the catchy ‘Ma, Maati, Manush‘ slogan that caught the imagination of the electorate desperately wanting a change. Mamata had swept the elections with a bagful of promises like turning Kolkata into London, Darjeeling to Switzerland… whatever had caught the fancy of her fertile imagination, she had promised. The voters, fed up with 34 years of rule/misrule, obliged by delivering a knockout punch to the Left.
But, just into 10 months in power, Mamata’s government has been rocked by a series of scandals like crib deaths, suicide by farmers, syndicates being formed by her leading ministers, corruption charges, a sharp rise in crime graph, assault of institutional heads by her henchmen, violence in educational institutions, attacks on CPM cadres in villages leading to allegedly 40,000 Left supporters being driven out of their homes… the stories are endless.
The latest bombshells are the rape of a 37-year-old Anglo-Indian woman at gunpoint late at night in a moving car in Park Street on February 5 and the ruthless murder of former Burdwan MLA Pradip Tah in broad daylight by TMC goons on February 22.
Let me first highlight the rape case, which has hogged media attention for the past few days. The victim had mustered the courage to come forward to lodge a rape complaint at the Park Street Police station on February 9. As soon as the news broke in the media, Mamata Banerjee’s very first reaction was it was all a CPM plot to malign her government. Her transport minister, Madan Mitra (whose detractors say that the name Madan means ‘Mod-on‘ — that he is always under influence of mod or alcohol) echoed his master’s voice. He directly attacked the victim, questioned her character — as to what was she doing so late at a night club and that she was under the influence of alcohol.
But of course, it is keeping with Mitra’s ways of functioning and the “respect” he is known to have for the fair sex — he had publicly told a woman from the IT sector during the Singur roadblock “Vamoose, else I’ll beat you” in chaste Bengali slang.
However, the very fact that the chief minister herself was in no mood to come to the aid of a woman victim was highly unbecoming of her office, particularly in light of the fact that the alleged crime was against a woman. Police Commissioner R.K. Pachnanda had echoed the same tune saying the “alleged rape” had yawning gaps and appeared to be baseless.
Ironically, I am reminded of an incident in 1993, during late Jyoti Basu’s tenure, when Ms Banerjee had staged a dramatic dharna in front of the chief minister’s chamber in the Writers’ Building. At that point, Didi was taking up the cause of a pregnant, deaf-and dumb girl, who had been raped. Basu, who was known not to given to any such melodrama, had arranged for the prompt eviction of Ms Banerjee. Immediate on her eviction, she proclaimed that she would not enter the Writers’ as long as the Left was in power.
It was perhaps the only promise that Didi had kept till date.
She had later led stormy protests over the alleged rape and murder of Tapasi Malik of Singur, which further enhanced her image as an intrepid street fighter, who was the personification of honesty and integrity and a messiah of the downtrodden and oppressed.
But, having achieved her cherished dream of capturing the coveted throne of the Chief Minister, things seem to have changed. Into the tenth month of her tenure, it appears that her balloon of self-esteem and pride has been pricked as she has started realising that being in power and running the administration was a different ball game from protesting as a fiery Opposition leader.
Clearly, Mamata suffers from a split personality. Her actions defy plain logic. While her government could not pay the salary and pension of CSTC employees, she hiked the salary of the MLAs. When debt-trapped farmers were committing suicide on account of her government’s miserable failure to ensure minimum procurement prices, she was going around the state inaugurating tourism festivals and spending government resources.
She was confronted by the media on various issues from crib deaths to farmers’ suicide. Time to time she would come out with her famous one-liners, created by her fertile imagination. Some rare inane comments followed (which would be etched in bold letters in a book that I plan to write some day to be titled Mamata Ubacho). First, the baby death reports were rumours, and then she stated the babies were conceived during the Left Front rule and hence her government couldn’t be attributed the blame. Trust anyone to come up with such a skewed logic!
She has literally turned a blind eye and deaf ear to all the negative things that has been taking place in the state in the past few months.
Coming back to the main issues of the article, as soon as the rape incident surfaced, some TV channels like Kolkata TV, which is supposedly being patronised by the TMC regime, went all out to prove that the incidence was concocted and the entire episode was staged. However, there was a messiah for the victim in joint Commissioner Damayanti Sen, who perhaps had a hunch about what the truth was and pursued the case till the end. Soon, it was proved that the victim was raped and the culprits were apprehended.
But, instead of a pat on the back, what Sen got was a reprimand. She was called to the Chief Minister chamber, reportedly given a dressing down and asked to issue a clarification before the media.
The case was a slap on the face of Mamata and her government. Her abrasive and unwanted comment has sullied her image. Typically, her intellectual followers, who were mostly accommodated in the Railways as paid employees, have rallied in her support.
However, our illustrious MP Derek O ‘Brien, who hails from the city’s most eminent Anglo-Indian family and who tries to emulate the wit of Suhel Seth during TV programmes and riles the Left at every opportunity, was conspicuous by his silence in the matter. Was he too embarrassed by his Didi’s ‘faux pas’?
But that didn’t deter some of the others, some of whom went to the extent of stating before the media that the entire incident was planned from a blackmailing angle and the identity of the alleged victim in question should be revealed so that she couldn’t “ensnare more innocent men” in her traps. But this is before Damayanti Sen did what she did — proved the chief minister and her cronies wrong.
I do not know whether Damayanti Sen could be coerced into “unearthing” such concocted facts. I personally salute the efforts of Sen, who incidentally hails from the same alma maters (South Point and Jadavpur University) as me. She has proved to be the real tigress and not a “paper tigress” like our illustrious Chief Minister, who, instead of rushing to the aid of a woman victim, chose to ignore her and brush off the entire incident as CPM conspiracy to gain some petty political mileage.
Do Mamata and her minister Madan Mitra know that even if a sex worker complains of being raped and forced to have sex against her will, she is entitled to lodge a complaint of rape? That the laws of the country allow for sexual coercion under the influence of alcohol and drugs also as rape?
In this backdrop, the CPM staged a mammoth rally at the Brigade parade ground last Sunday, the day after the rape accused were apprehended. Over 10 lakh people assembled at the rally, sending warning bells ringing at TMC headquarters.
What followed was bizarre. The TMC government went on the offensive and industry minister Partha Chatterjee threatened that the government would go all out to foil the strike called by trade unions on February 28, which is appearing to take the shape of a fullscale Bengal bandh now. Perhaps taking cue from the statement of a senior minister, on February 23 former Burdwan MLA Pradip Tah was murdered by TMC goons in broad daylight as he was organising a rally in support of the trade union strike.
Even as the police arrested Trinamool activists for the crime, an unfazed Ms Banerjee said in Delhi that Tah had a series of criminal cases against him and his death was the result of CPM’s internal strife.
There is a very well know quote from Abraham Lincoln: You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Has our “doctorate” chief minister read that ever?
The fangs of the TMC regime have been laid bare. The slogan ‘Badla Noi, Badal Chai’ (Want change, not revenge), is being re-christened as ‘Badla Chai, Badal Noi‘. In other words, vendetta is clearly the agenda of the TMC. The ‘Ma-Mati-Manush‘ slogan has been rendered as ’Ma-Mati-Fanush (balloon)’.
And the enigma and mystique of the paper tigress called Mamata is being demystified. The future will unfold whether this rape-gate marks the beginning of the end for her.