(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)
Mamata Banerjee leadership traits, confrontation style and recent behavior of sitting on ‘Dharnas,’ do not augur well for nation’s posterity.
“Save India”, “Save Constitution”, “Save Democracy”, “Save Indian Police” and “Save Indian Administrative Service” are some of the slogans in the backdrop of the stage behind her Chair, mostly contrived slogans to misguide people clearly reflects her negative and confrontational mindset.
The BJP response is on expected lines: “Jungle Raj” and “Murder of Democracy” in Bengal. In particular, highlighting the refusal of permission to hold rallies and permit helicopter landings nearby.
Despicable fraud it is the “Drama” of the Police Commissioner and personnel appearing on the Platform in ceremonial uniform hosting the “awards’ ceremony of policemen.
Furthermore, the former DGP of Kolkata Police sitting next to the Mamata Banerjee along with the serving police commissioner with others standing-by reflects the partisan politicization of police forces.
By whatever stretch of imagination one cannot also condone the serving Commissioner of Police also sitting on the dais with the “Dharnas or Drama Queen” of Bengal and justifying invoking need for her protection.
As per media reports in circulation, there are over 490 Benami accounts in the bye lanes of Kolkata which the Police under directions is trying to save them from law.
Most apt is the assessment of the US Consulate in Kolkata revealed by Wiki leak in March 2009 even today: “Mamata Banerjee: fighter and drama queen. Fearless, temperamental and aggressive, Mamata Banerjee has often been likened to a tigress. Due to her unpredictable and high-strung nature, she has succeeded in occupying the political limelight in West Bengal as no other politician has” in the past.
No limits to Mamata Banerjee antics and dramatic theatrics. In the coming days, they will explode even in Delhi and other states. She will go to any absurd extent to remain in media limelight. Be prepared to watch her sitting in Dharnas at Jantar Mantar along with N Chandrababu Naidu soon.
Mamata Banerjee is recognized as a maverick who has little respect for customs and protocol. She is known for speaking her mind and does not think twice before attacking institutions such as the Election Commission and even the judiciary. She is also popularly referred to as ‘Didi’ in the state as well on the national level. The streets of Bengal bear testimony to “Didi” endless Dharnas.
Known also as “Didi’, in 1993, Banerjee, then a Youth Congress leader, had barged into Writers’ Buildings and sat in front of the chamber of then CM Jyothi Basu demanding justice for an alleged rape victim. The Dharnas ended with the police dragging her by the hair and eventually locking her up. Next, the Singur protests in 2006 were instrumental in catalyzing the process of making “Didi” CM of Bengal.
Politically, she is now facing yet another most challenging chapter in her life due to forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. Hemmed in by the Saradha scam, Narada video sting, and a flyover collapse, “Didi” has to summon all her charms and aggression to drive home her point with the electorate in her own backyard to counter the BJP offensive.
As the collaboration of her cronies, both political and bureaucracy, are caught in the midst of investigations set to become murkier and darker, “Didi” wasted no time over the CBI Vs Kolkata Police crisis to reach the familiar spot – the corner outside Metro cinema hall in Esplanade — to start an indefinite ‘Dharnas’ that she has called off now after the Supreme Court verdict claiming it as victory.
The 3-day Dharnas that started on 3 December 2019 comes after a rather long interval of 13 years, that too at a time, when the political scenario in the country is at its volatile and vicious worst surge. Apart from uniting the otherwise shaky grand alliance, the Dharnas could also propel “Didi” to her erstwhile popularity. She is not only aiming at the national level foray, failing which a third stint in power in Bengal.
“Didi” understands very well real politick and woven iconic “cult” status over the years. She walks through the corridors of powers in New Delhi dressed in a mill cotton sari, Hawaii slippers and a black cotton bag slung across her shoulder to lend a touch of seriousness. Behind her simple exterior ticks the astute mind of a grassroots leader who understands the importance of ‘photo-optics’ in modern-day politics.
“Didi”, the streets and protests have a tempestuous relationship. Critics call her the ‘gully’ girl. The common man identifies with her unsophisticated and humble ways, not least because she continues to live as an unmarried woman with her mother in the one room tenement where she grew up in the shadow of Calcutta’s Kalighat temple. Her communication skills, particularly her Bengali speech overflows with intensity. Her appearance, plump and puffy-faced, is ordinary enough to merge into the crowds. She can mobilize a crowd in minutes and has a keen eye towards theatrics with an impromptu song at the local shopping center festival.
Based on her past sit-in protests signature style of dissent, right from her stint as a youth wing leader to her time as the face of Opposition in West Bengal, one should not be surprised to enact ‘sit-in protests inside the Parliament or Supreme Court CHI chamber even as the Prime Minister, if ever she is anointed as one.
However, her dominance and the cult of personality have left the party institutionally weak, but one with a clear leader. Her challenge is to overcome the criticism that she is “irrational” and “unpredictable.”
No wonder, “Didi” spent no time in hitting to the streets with a plastic chair and a diminutive shawl. The political agility with which she maneuvered the CBI offensive into a head-on fight against the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre, is her strategic riposte. According to sources, Banerjee had long foreseen a CBI offensive against her aides in Bengal.
Not one to take things lying down, “Didi” was quick to rise to the occasion. After reaching Kumar’s house and thwarting his arrest which she claimed was illegal as CBI had no warrant or previous state clearance, “Didi” instantly reached a familiar spot – the corner outside Metro cinema hall in Esplanade — to start an indefinite ‘Dharnas’.
The CBI landing in to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in the multi-crore chit fund scams would have been a major political embarrassment for her and her party. But Mamata, her instincts honed by taking on the Leftists at the most basic level for years in West Bengal, knows the value of street-smart politics, and she quickly made it to Rajeev Kumar’s residence and later moved out and sat in Dharnas against, what she claimed was, the Centre’s aggressive overreach.
But, as it happens, she has no real case to stand on. If for a minute you can pause a bit, and reflect, you will understand that Mamta’s gambit is mostly poker bluff.
The two chit funds scandals —- Saradha and Rose Valley — put together have defrauded the common public of over Rs. 25,000 crore. Just in numbers alone, this is as big a scam as anything modern India has seen.
And it is more than clear that the politicos from the stable of the TMC have been part of this monumental swindle in which the people of West Bengal, Bihar and Assam have been diabolically duped.
The SIT, headed by the very same Rajeev Kumar, set up by “Didi” government to investigate the con racket, was allegedly wishy-washy and treated the tainted TMC leaders with kid gloves. It is because of this unfortunate turn of events that the Supreme Court ordered the CBI to take over the case in 2014.
The CBI has filed 80 charge sheets in the case, and has been wanting to quiz Rajeev Kumar because of his alleged dubious conduct as the SIT chief.
With the going getting tough, the “Didi” government last year announced the withdrawal of consent to the CBI to operate in the State. This meant denying police powers to the CBI.
But the issue this withdrawal of consent does not have retrospective effect, and the CBI can continue investigating ongoing cases. This is the settled position of the Supreme Court on this matter.
So, “Didi” is now on thin ice. She is more on the wrong side of the Constitution than the CBI. She is trying to whip up the State’s passion against Centre’s dominance. It may seem to be paying dividends now, but is a dangerous strategy as its long-term impact does not augur well for the cohesiveness of the country.
The BJP called her stunts “appalling attempts” to obstruct justice in a corruption case.
“Didi” Dharnas Drama may get her political brownie points. “Dharnas Drama” on the streets of Kolkata what with her highly opportunistic rabble rousing bigotry and bullying tactics with utter disregard to constitutional propriety betray grim portends. If ever people opt and elevate her to be the Prime Minister of India, dictatorship would be a distinct prospect.