Maoist rapists, TV porn stars: There's no cure for Mamata's rants

Some time in 1996, adolescent girls across most of India and half the world found their school fest hit, first crush and Holy Grail rolled into one song. It was a wondrously blue eyed and straw haired Ronan Keating crooning his version of a 1968 Bee Gees hit 'Words'. The lines that then served as greeting card catch-lines for an entire generation discovering MTV and hence struggling to accept Shah Rukh Khan in a tight flourescent tee as a teenage college stud, were these:

It's only words
And words are all I have
To take your heart away

This might be doing great disservice to the very goodlooking man that Ronan Keating is, but if there was anyone who seemed to have followed the song's noble advice to the T, it has to be West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Mamata's ascent to power, arguably, had been propped on a whole lot of words strung together with angst, anger and unintentional comedy for the informed. Three years back, in a state fed up with the Left Front's sloth and flagrant corruption, those words were music to the ears, the closest political rhetoric in India could have gotten to taking the heart away or something like that. Mamata's words still affect in the heart - in a way that can't be healthy. 'Keep quiet. Shut up. You are all CPM supporters' or 'You're the Maoist student asking the Maoist question' are not just disturbing grammatically, they also point towards a constant state of meltdown that the Bengal CM seems to have been caught in ever since she was voted to power.

Mamata Banerjee. Agencies.

Mamata Banerjee. Agencies.

Mamata, who rose to the ranks of power from being an abrasive, loud and often sharp tongued opposition leader with little patience for subtlety, knows the potential of her own brand of political dissent, well. However, she seems to have got the ways to negotiate the same completely wrong. Passing every contentious buck on the Opposition can't be a credible political ploy and there's where Mamata Banerjee is showing her naivete and ignorance. For example the Barasat rape case presented Mamata with a rare opportunity to partially set right several wrongs, even if for the political showing-off game. But she blew it.

Mamata has been continually hauled up for her insensitivity to women's issues right from December 2011 when the Park Street rape case rocked the nation. She hurriedly dismissed the case as a CPI(M) conspiracy and her party leaders sung a shameful chorus dismissing the victim as a prostitute who was creating undue ruckus. In the Barasat rape and murder case, the offenders are known to be prominent Trinamool cadres. While Banerjee could have publicly disowned such party activists, promised strict action against them and hence redeemed her reputation for misogyny, she again chose to call the offenders  CPI(M) activists. Yes, she promised action and said she'll seek death sentence for the accused, but she still had to blame the CPM for all the wrongs.

“We are number one in taking action. These areas have empty lands that have been occupied by CPM men who raped the college girl,” Mamata said, not seeming to recover fully from her verbal diarrhoea.

Given that Mamata's 'CPM conspiracy' cry has been already enshrined in the hallowed hall of political jokes, it is least likely that people are going to place their faith on her intent. Worse is if the CPM indeed did something wrong, Mamata's accusations will be dismissed as haughty, baseless and driven by desperation.

In effect, unintentionally, Mamata seems to be on a drive to whitewash CPM's seamy, grimy reputation in Bengal's consciousness. While the latter's administrative skills are far from complementary and its history of violence is gruesome, thanks to Mamata's scapegoating instincts, the party can actually assume a stance of victim-hood now.

The chief minister, now in the eye of a storm, after the Barasat rape case evoked widespread protests, have taken a step further and has accused every organisation that doesn't agree with her as plotters who want to murder her. In her list of prospective murderers are CPI(M), Maoists and a media house which dislikes her. Now, one can't be too sure if the said media house doesn't have any political agenda, but it takes great degrees of imagination to suspect murder. And with Mamata's motormouth, the bit of news sounds even more ridiculous.

Who is crying murder threat here? The same woman who said rapes happen because men and women interact 'freely', the same woman who said the Park Street rape was not a case of sexual assault but a political conspiracy, and the same woman who would possibly call a cat a hybrid Maoist-CPM conspirator if it purred out of turn. The party is not the government, Mamata Banerjee needs to be told.

It's not like Banerjee has always been on the wrong foot.

However, with her impulsive statement-making, she is a classic case of the consequences of terrible public relations. Mamata, the successful voice of  Trinamool the opposition party, doesn't make for a great spokesperson for the government.

West Bengal has been in the economic doldrums for a long time and suffered from policy paralysis for longer. But the reason why the state's failures have now become synonymous with Banerjee is because she jumps to her party's defence even before accusations are hurled at her.

In general human behaviour that is called insecurity. And insecurity doesn't a great administrator make.

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