Facing an FIR several police cases across the country over her remarks on a controversy over a film poster featuring Goddess Kaali, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra was on Wednesday defiant, tweeting: “Jai Ma Kali! The goddess Bengalis worship is fearless & non-appeasing.”
While her remarks were endorsed by a large number of the TMC’s young social media volunteers, Moitra may find the support dry up soon. With its vigorous invocation of Bengali sub-nationalism at odds with its plans to expand in other regions, the TMC was quick to officially distance itself from Moitra’s remarks, made at the India Today Conclave East. It also issued a strong censure of the first-time MP.
Jai Ma Kali!
The goddess Bengalis worship is fearless & non-appeasing.
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) July 6, 2022
“Moitra should realise that as a public representative, the world is not her oyster. Exercising a degree of restraint is also necessary in these fraught times, notwithstanding our personal beliefs,” said a Trinamool MP, on the condition of anonymity.
While it was precisely her fiery oratory and articulation that fuelled Moitra’s meteoric rise in the TMC after she joined it in 2010 – with the party looking for faces to represent it in the national capital – her star has been on the decline.
As a parliamentarian, Moitra has often made it to headlines with her speeches tearing into the Modi government and the RSS-BJP ideology. In her maiden speech in 2019, she talked about “early signs of fascism”, saying: “The very nature of the overwhelmingness of this mandate (the BJP’s win), of the totality of this mandate, makes it necessary for us to be heard today, for the voice of dissent to be heard today.”
In 2021, the TMC rewarded her by making her Goa in-charge, hoping to leverage her strengths in the coastal state. But the TMC’s drubbing in the Assembly polls did not reflect well on Moitra.
Before that, she was at the receiving end of public admonishment by TMC chief Mamata Banerjee during an administrative review meeting in Nadia district, under which Moitra’s constituency Krishnanagar falls, over bickering regarding ticket distribution.
A TMC insider said, “Over the months, the leadership had received complaints over her autocratic style of functioning. A combination of such complaints from local leaders and her outspokenness in sensitive matters were to be her undoing.”
Born in Assam’s Cachar district in 1974, Moitra had a fairly affluent upbringing in a family of tea-planters, and graduated from a Massachusetts college with a degree in Economics and Mathematics. She left a successful career as a banker with JP Morgan’s London and New York operations to pursue, what she calls, a life-long interest in public life.
Her first stop was the Congress, where she was almost immediately picked to lead the “aam aadmi ka sipahi (common man’s soldier)” booth-level campaign conceived by Rahul Gandhi. Two years later, she moved to the TMC. She attributed it to the Congress’s weak organisational presence at the grass-roots level.
She managed to win first as a TMC MLA from a largely rural Karimpur constituency in 2019 and is now an MP from Krishnanagar.
As the controversy over her Kaali remarks spread, trailed by complaints against her, Moitra characteristically shot back on Twitter: “Bring it on BJP! Am a Kali worshipper. I am not afraid of anything. Not your ignoramuses. Not your goons. Not your police. And most certainly not your trolls. Truth doesn’t need back up forces.” Through the day, she liked many tweets that expressed disappointment over the position taken by the TMC on her.
However, in these thin-skinned times, perhaps Moitra would do better to heed her own words once. Addressing students at a school in Delhi in July 2019, she said people had warned her about politics. “I was always what, unfortunately, in slang was termed as ‘smart ass’. Everyone said there are sharks out there, they will eat you up, it’s dirty, it’s corrupt, you don’t know anyone, your father’s not an MP, it’s impossible.”
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