Nurul Hassan was Bengal’s governor during the 80s—-an immensely corpulent humanoid (visualize the largest snowman you ever saw and multiply it by five) and by common consent, a CPM “yes man” (despite being nominated by the Congress). (It was rumored that the governor’s car had to be refitted to accommodate his girth)
During a typical exchange of hostilities after the Governor’s speech to the West Bengal Assembly, Nurulji got into his custom Ambassador to escape the bedlam that had erupted.
As legend goes— before anyone could react, someone had climbed onto the top of the gubernatorial Ambassador shouting slogans , absolutely determined not to let the car move.
Kya entrance maara re baap !
The person dancing on top of the car was none other than a little-known but fast-rising Congress functionary known for being a crowd-puller—– Mamata Banerjee.
To many a hysterical madwoman.
Weeping in the Assembly and throwing stuff at the Speaker (Incidentally, Somnath Chatterjee, the target of her ire, was someone she drubbed at the polls in her first break-out political victory)
Resigning Monday and taking it back Tuesday and re-resigning next week.
Calling strikes and bandhs at the drop of a hat.
Eyes rolling, frothing at the mouth —-a rebel with no apparent cause, obsessed with the Rail Ministry whose one-point agenda is to make trains going from Mumbai to Pune pass through Kolkata.
Yes to many that’s what she is—-a loony parochial, uber-competitive airbrain.
Not to me she isn’t.
For me, Mamata will always be someone who tried to do the impossible—unseat the corrupt Red government which like a malignant tumor has sunk its tentacles into all of Bengal’s institutions.
She had to do it alone. No real help from The Congress, which she once quite appositely referred to as the CPM’s B-team. For those not into Bengal politics, the opposition Congress is in cahoots with the ruling Left and consist of leaders who can take on the CPM’s top leaders in terms of corruption and decadence.
On one side the starched, Rin-white dhotis of the CPM honchos led by the “leader of the dispossessed” , corrupt-to-the-bones , yet refined Jyoti Basu.
And in the other corner, alone —a single woman in a dirty white sari, unpolished with a fake Phd degree from US, trying to outshout the chrous of lies emanating from the well-oiled CPM machinery.
Yes she tried. She failed. One reason for her failure was because she adopted the idiom of the loony left—the culture of calling a strike for even the most trivial reasons. When she started it, the junta were with her. But then as it happens to the best of us, she overplayed the card imposing one debiliating strike after another till all the goodwill vanished and people began to see perceive her as a rabble-rouser whose only weapon was inconvenience.
Which brings me to the second reason for her failure. Mamata is a Samurai, first one into battle and last one out. But she has no clue what to do after the fighting is over. She can fight a war but she cannot keep the peace. Where logic and cunning is needed, Mamata gets emotional and all misty-eyed.
Yes, Mamata is a very emotional woman. Yes she is hysterical—–and let me hazard a justification for that.
She needs love. It’s tough to be called “Didi”….in one fell stroke everyone has becomes her brother.
Mamata needs someone on whose shoulder she can vent her pent-up frustrations—-Jayalalitha had MGR, Maywati had Kansi Ram., Uma Bharati had Govindacharya…all that Mamata had was a nation full of brothers. Which is why her emotional tantrums are unleashed on the nation , much to the detriment of her own image.
Mamata can never see beyond Bengal and she does not need to—it is in Bengal where she can exert the most influence. She never should have gone the Minister route—-sitting in a sofa pushing files is just not her. Her place is on the ground with the microphone in her hand.
Mamata’s biggest USP is that she is honest—unnaturally so. The CPM has tried its bag of dirty tricks on her but not even one corruption charge had any meat to it.
Okay she got a fake PhD degree. That’s the end of her indiscretions—otherwise the simplicity of her life is common knowledge in Calcutta. Being without a family means she does not have a thieving husband or out-of-control kids. And her kindness and lack of attachment for personal belongings is legendary——–as mentioned before, the true 21st century Samurai.
I grew up in Marxist Bengal seeing first hand, the Emperor Basu who lived in luxury in Salt Lake and whose administrative dictats would include telling the police force to kill all jackals in Salt Lake because their barking disturbed his night sleep—-a man who every summer would holiday in Europe and USA while fulminating against Western imperialism…a man whose every breath reeked of hypocrisy.
On the other hand, I also grew up seeing Mamata who was the anti-Basu, a person who lived what she spoke.
True, I never approved her means of struggle and many of her causes.
However, I could never deny that Mamata had a heart. Not much brains perhaps but a whole lot of heart.
Maybe that makes her a bad politician.
But it sure makes her an excellent Didi.