‘Didi’, as they call her, might be the first woman to enter the Chief Minister’s office of West Bengal, but cannot quite be called an inspiration for many who seek to embark on a similar venture. It can be said, without doubt, that Banerjee’s victory for the All India Trinamul Congress (AITMC) in West Bengal by defeating the world’s longest serving democratically elected communist government, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is an astonishing benchmark in her list of achievements, but when it comes to handling criticism she isn’t exactly prudent.
She is popularly cited by the media as the most ‘populist politician of India’, Mamata Banerjee was heavily criticized and condemned after forcing Dinesh Trivedi to resign as the railway minister on march. Even after Trivedi defended the budget by pointing out that it was necessary for making Indian Railways stronger, and avoiding bankruptcy, Ms Banerjee fiercely opposed it stating that her nominee Mukul Roy was a better candidate for the post of the railway minister also stating that Roy has proved himself as a ‘loyal soldier’ for the party .The introduction of a hike in the Railway Budget had received enthusiastic support from all cross sections of the society.
Weeks after the announcement, Ambikesh Mahapatra, a professor of Jadhavpur University, was assaulted and then arrested for apparently distributing ‘defamatory’ pictures of Mamata Banerjee which she described later as methods to ‘malign’ her. There was nationwide condemnation for the issue especially from the academic community and the left, especially when it was reported that the victim of the assault was forced to spend a night in jail while his attackers, allegedly Trinamool Congress activists, were almost immediately released on bail. Mamata blamed that this was all a scheme set up by the CPI-M. The cartoon was apparently based on Satyajit Ray’s movie ‘Sonar Kella’ and allegedly shows Mamata and Railways Minister Mukul Roy discussing how to get rid of party MP Dinesh Trivedi.
The charges filed were Section 66 of the information technology act which states that ‘Whoever with the intent of cause or knowing that is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person destroys or deletes or alters any information residing in a computer resource or diminishes its value or utility or affects it injuriously by any means, will be prosecuted’. Most academicians believe that no way can the cartoon be regarded as innocuous to Ms Banerjee or her party. The professor was also charged under Section 500, 509 and 114 of the Indian Penal Code. Other parties including the CPM and BJP were quick in condemning the incident, and citing that this could lead to a dangerous trend of silencing cartoonists.
With a substantial decrease in tolerance in dealing with almost completely innocuous incidents, Mamata Banerjee is proving that she will not resist any sort of defamatory depiction of her or her party, and is ready to take any kind of violent action against those who do. BJP state president Rahul Sinha stated that Banerjee could lead Bengal into a ‘party-sponsored emergency’ if this kind of intolerance is continued. If that is the case, the landslide victory of AITMC over the CPI-M won’t be a matter of jubilance after all.
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