Treat Her Like a Lady

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.

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.

23 thoughts on “Treat Her Like a Lady

  1. Mr. Bong, I salute your imagination! Three salutes, actually. 1..2..3!! Who else, but you could have taken that overused word ‘Didi’ and turned it into a laugh-riot. All the while your analysis sounds v.reasonable actually. I don’t know, whether you really believe that or not.

    I have said it as much in one of our email exchanges, and will repeat it once more. You should be in show-biz, entertainment, writing etc…not in research. You are a talent wasted on Google’s blogspot pages. Seriously, think about it. And one day, when you make it BIG, do remember this fan. I will demand the first signed copy of whatever you publish/produce/direct.


  2. Hey, guess what? I have some gossip to add to your riot. Mamata has signed on the dotted lines of a marriage resgistry form. She refuses to acknowldge her hubby publicly, but this is first hand info from her right hand chamchas. While in ET, I had the privilege of travelling (that too with a doggone collar round my neck and a bag full of only Voveran shots)with her 2 toadies. Since I could hardly move much, I was kept fairly entertained by the two over zealous Congressmen!

  3. This post has been removed by the author.

  4. Great post man…
    I dont know much about both Mamata or the CPM in Bengal…so I have nothing else to say..

  5. I’ve been a fan of your blogs for a while – though have never posted a comment before – but I must say this was the first one where the reasoning struck me as a little simplistic. I don’t think anyone who saw the Trinamool Congress do its bit in power after winning the municipal elections could believe that they stood against corruption. It was clearly a case of ‘its our turn to rake in the moolah now’ with the party’s rank and file. Personally Mamata may or may be squeaky clean but her political opportunism in actions like abandoning the NDA and joining the Congress just before the WB elections cannot possibly be excused by saying ‘Oh she meant well, after all!’

    I don’t know if you have visited Kolkata recently but the current Chief Minister is seen to be of a different stature from Jyoti Basu. Yes, he may not be trumpeting his political stance by shouting it from the rooftops with a megaphone, but he does focus more on getting the job done. I think West Bengal need more people like him and not raucous rabble rousers with not-so-well-hidden agendas – we’ve suffered enough from the likes of them!

  6. @Suhail…thank you…of course the part about Didi needing love was tongue-in-cheek but I do sincerely admire her honesty and her courage in facing upto the formidable CPM machinery.

    @Priya and JAP,

    First Didi’s clandestine marriage is also a thing I have heard whispered about—-now what I dont understand is

    1) Why does she need to keep her marriage secret (she is not, mercifully I may add, not a movie star) when so many Indian lady politicians are married (one of them even had a live-in arrangement with her mentor which never affected her political fortunes)?

    2) And if she really was married, the CPM hounds would never have let it go—and boy have they tried. They got on her on the PhD thing within days of her getting it “via correspondence”, they tried to get her on “collaborating with promoters”( pot callling the kettle black) and yetbnone of the accusations ever got much play…

    JAP you accuse her of staying behind. Growing up in Gariahat (the site of some of her most trenchant battles) I have seen her pushing against police lines , right at the front, abusing and bating the tin-hat constables…this was when CPM bulldozers had razed the illegal shops on Gariahat (an action I supported the CPM for doing—by the way).

    And staying back in a jeep would not have got Mamata coshed on the head like what happened to her at Garcha. I cannot recall which major Bengal opposition politician ever had his skull split open in course of an agitation….

    As to allying herself with corrupt politicians…yes guilty as charged. However my point is that she was *personally* honest just like Dr Singh, our PM, is. Both of them however are allied with crooks and that is exacty what makes these people unique—they try to stay honest among a gaggle of lowlifes.

    Political alliancies are all about expediency—hell even the CPM and the BJP were once part of the same alliance….now after that we should not be blaming anyone else for opportunistic marriages-of-convenience.

    I have been in Kolkata in 2003. You may feel that the present govt (which consists of *exactly* the same faces of th Jyoti Basu sans the man himself) is more efficient. However I can still read the newspapers—of goons intimidating traders, exorting money from philanthropic schools—-and I see basically the same stuff they used to do when I was there.

    Ok we have not had a Bantala or a Birati and I am thankful for that.

    Buddha may personally be more honest than Jyoti-babu and as you said more pragmatic. But calling the present government “honest” is to me a stretch because the same people used to be there in previous governments too..

    @Anon…firstly this post was tongue-in-cheek…I really was not doing an analysis of Bengal politics but merely composing an eulogy on Didi…..

    However I agree with you and that’s a point I think I made too. Mamata would make a lousy CM….Buddha is much better there. Even Jyoti Basu was a better CM than Mamata could ever be.

    All I wanted to say was I admire her courage and her honesty—of course as you can see from the comments…none of these claims are without its naysayers and in all seriousness, there maybe meat in what they say.

    But what I have seen of Mamata (she is a MP from my constituency) and heard of her, she is quite a bit different than your average Gandhi-topiwala.

  7. @JAP…things have changed? Just saw this today.

    Full story
    Though the Trinamool Congress won the Assembly seat in 2001, the CPI(M) controls most of the panchayats thanks to the 2003 incident in which thousands of opposition candidates simply “forgot” to file their nomination papers all over the State in that year’s local body elections.

    And then again:

    But while Bangladeshis are finding place on West Bengal’s voters’ lists, genuine Indians are being dropped. In Kolkata North-West constituency for instance – one not known to be affected by infiltration – a whopping 1,70,992 genuine voters found their names missing from the list for 2004, even though the total number of voters had increased over the one for 2001 by two per cent. In Kolkata North-East, the number of those dropped was higher -1,91,185.

    Call it coincidence or machination, both those seats were won by the Trinamool Congress in 1999 and the party did well in the Assembly segments within them in 2001. In 2004, the CPI(M) “won” both.

    But the biggest surprise was in Kolkata-South, Ms Banerjee’s seat. In 1999 she won from here by over two lakh votes. Just before the 2004 election she found to her utter shock that 2,39,574 names had been dropped. It is another matter that she retained her seat, albeit by a much reduced margin, but the question hangs: what warranted such a huge exodus of voters from this constituency whereas the ones held by the CPI (M) saw only marginal erosion?

    Much the same was witnessed in Jadavpur (names dropped: 2,03,365), Howrah
    ( 2,53,623), Dum Dum ( 2,40,542), Barasat ( 73,770), Sreerampur ( 1,63,772) and others won by the Trinamool and BJP back in 1999. When one takes a close look at the slim margins by which the NDA parties lost these seats in the 2004 hustings, the mystery both deepens and resolves itself.

    In Sreerampur, for instance, Akbar Ali Khondokar of Trinamool lost by just over 18,000 votes. Tapan Sikdar of the BJP lost in Dum Dum by about 98, 000 votes. Similarly, Satyabrata Mookherjee of the BJP lost in Krishnagar by just 20,000 votes after seeing 73,213 genuine voters being subtracted and 32,992 new ones added over the one that elected him in 1999

    Buddha has changed things you mean?

  8. Hi Arnab,

    Nice article. I am not too familiar with Didi except her histrionics…But she does seem to come across as an honest woman…

  9. “Not much brains perhaps but a whole lot of heart.”
    Arnab, do you remember Dipali Basak? I bet you don’t. Neither does Mamatadi I bet. Dipali Basak is the deaf-mute rape victim, whom Mamata (then a Youth Congress leader) had paraded at Writers’ Building in 1992 to show the lawless state of Bengal. Nine months later, a Telegraph reporter tracked down the pregnant Dipali to an ashram in Dhapa. When asked, Dipali had said “No” she had not heard from Didi in the last many months. That was it. After reading that article I never ever harboured any illusions about Mamatadi. So, whenever I would read articles about her frequent “natoks” like threatening suicide at Gariahat Mor, I would smirk inwardly. And when I heard my family members tell me that they were going to vote Trinamul for change, I smirked. For me, Mamata represents the lumpen culture of the Congress in Bengal, epitomised by the likes of Subrata Mukherjee. Also, if she has got married and doesn’t reveal it, I don’t think its a huge character flaw, but just because the Left Front did not rake it up doesn’t mean it is untrue. Why, Somen Mitra kept his marriage under wraps for a long time.

  10. No hard feelings, Arnab. And as a gesture of goodwill, let me recount an incident about another Kolkata character, who has been at the receiving end of some good bloglashing of late. The one and only — Parnab Mukherjee. It so happens that my association with him was not limited to Kolkata’s quizzing circles. I was a one-time colleague of his during his days in Asian Age. It so happened that one day in the first week of April, (I am not sure about the year, but I think it was 1998) Asian Age carried a front page story on how FIDE, the world chess body, was about to bring in some changes in the game’s rules. The story came out under the byline of, who else, Parnab Mukherjee! Subsequently, it was discovered that Parnab had actually plagiarised the story from some foreign newspaper, which had carried it as an April Fool joke. Parnab, in his infinite wisdom, had seen the story but failed to read it through to the last line. And then there was… Now don’t get me started, because there are so many of them I wouldn’t know where to stop!

  11. wow…amazing sutff arnab.
    after reading this blog, i was inspired to read another one!!

  12. Thorougly enjoyed this post Arnab.

    Here’s what I heard over one of my (many) coffee table discussion with some Bong friends.

    The redoubtable Joti B apparently had a granddaughter who went to England (oxford or some other bastion)….and granddaddie bought her a cottage to live in (just outside oxford). But the gal blew her top because it was too far away from happening london.

    Granddaughter 2 also went to England…..and was bought an apartment to live in, in London itself. But gd2 didn’t like it, because she wanted to live in the country.

    This tale of extreme sadness greatly depressed me. Such a spartan existence. Surely, a few hundred thousand pounds is a mere pittance for a humble comrade?

    (I have no idea of the authenticity of this story my friend was telling, and as well all know, very few tell tales better than a Bong (some of us tams do, but we are few in number)….but don’t have any reason to disbelieve it completely……)

  13. @kolkatarchele, Ok so Mamata forgot Dipali Basak once all the hue and cry was over—thats typical politician….I never said Mamata was extremely different as a “politician”. However when compared to the people who were protecting the rapist I think she did rather well.Also,as I mentioned, there are numerous examples of Mamata’s charity and plain and simple “niceness”—of course thats all part of politics but did Jyoti babu ever do it ?

    And as to Parnab copying an April Fool’s joke…why even TOI did it for Ash going on Springer….so Parnab set a trend there too. He used to claim to be a bigshot at the Alekhine Chess Club…..:-)

    @Ananya…more posts coming up…keep on watching the space…

    @Sunil….Never heard that one….but it could very well be true. Jyoti Basu’s youth wing railed and ranted against Miss World. However a few years later proud dadu Jyoti Babu went on record saying that one of his proudest moments was when his granddaughter won a beauty contest in Kolkata (sounds as impartial as Bengal’s elections) and he was in the audience cheering her on!

  14. I once heard that Mamata Banerjee was the first person to use the term Tormuj to refer to a turncoat congressman. To discover the similarity between these two for the first time is awesome. What amazes me a lot is the, otherwise, very low probability of occurrence of so many independent factors together; two main opposition parties with red and green symbols locking horns at the same place, a large numbers wolves in the green party, existence of a very popular fruit red inside and green outside and … most importantly ‘didi’ sitting bang in the middle.

  15. Arnab, shall carry on the discussion on e-mail rather than here. The electoral roll issue is a very sore one.

    You can find me at another dot prufrock at gmail dot com.


  16. wud like ur prized opinion on my blog
    do check it out

  17. Seriously man, Bengal’s such a gone state!
    What’s most killing is that of all the states which could have been brain-washed, Bengal was definitely the least expected victim.
    But then what else can you be with the burden of a zillion penniless scums that the Bangals in West l are. Hate them!!!

  18. @Akash,
    Tormuj is indeed a chance of nature…I guess it originated from Tyson being called a coconut—happy chance that too…
    Well thats an extreme opinion…but yes the refugee problem has led to the destruction of Bengal in many ways.

  19. shaadi hota to didi ke pati ka harshar kharab ho jata aur didi ka ghar sadak pe aa jata. vaise, can one resign from one’s own house. there is divorce of course, but it is nowhere near as noble as resigning. but then of course there would always be didi’s resigned husband. so maybe not a bad way for did to go

  20. Yes resigning from a marriage does sound noble…..

  21. Thank you, very interesting!

  22. @Greatbong
    Even I am from mamata’s constituency. which part of kolkata r u from?
    btw have recently started reading ur articles as pastime in office and became a fan of urs instantly.
    hope to interact more in future.
    best of luck.

  23. Quite an eye opener, the balance between black and white is well adapted. Do remember the red has a new face with a more common man outlook than before(a.k.a Buddhadeb ji).. After all this is the internet age and being a double aged sword wont get the politicians much clout… As can be said ‘We see all’ ‘We hear all’. The common junta is can not be spoon fed on ideologies any more. Hope those in power have understood the basis of it!

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