The Economist recently did a cover story on India. It carried a picture of a cat looking into the mirror only to see a majestic tiger as its reflection. I wonder what our very own Mamata Banerjee sees when she looks into the mirror? Could it be that she sees the lone street fighter from a rough part of the city or does she see an Indira Gandhi-like patrician figure? I suspect it is the latter going by her imperious ways, though no one could accuse la grande dame Gandhi of being out of touch with the people.
This is not to say that Mamatadi is not a woman of sterling qualities. She has many. She is a poet, she is a singer, she is a painter. But when you are the chief minister of a populous and backward state, when you have been able to by sheer dint of perseverance and a little bit of luck overthrow the 34-year-long reign of the Left, you cannot use proficiency in the liberal arts to wish your responsibilities away. Mamatadi lacks the one quality most needed for her high office, political acumen. Indeed, I wonder if she thinks that thanks to her feat of hammering the Left, she now does not need to govern, that people will look on with indulgent fondness as she makes bizarre statements and throws inexplicable tantrums.
It is one thing to be moody and mercurial but as her reaction to the death of a young SFI activist shows, she is just plain uncaring and insensitive. She dismissed the protests as unnecessary, the death as a small, indeed, petty matter. And in the days to come no doubt, she will come up with a theory that this unfortunate turn of events is aimed at tarnishing her image. We have heard of people who imagine that the CIA is after them, who think that everyone is out to get them. If it were you or me, we would be called paranoid and the men in white coats would come calling straitjacket in hand. In Mamata's case, we will have to call it her spontaneous outbursts of expression, just in case a posse of Trinamool workers pop around and wallop the daylights out of us.
In fact, thanks to her antics, Mamata is making the Left rule look like a Sunday school picnic. In her Bengal, we have women being raped and our Didi feels that this is part of a Red plot to sully her fair name. A hapless farmer asks her a question in public, and dear Mamata flies into a rage that a Maoist dares to infiltrate her rally. Journalists ask her uncomfortable questions and someone draws a cartoon of her and she is upon them like the Spanish Inquisition. To her credit, I must say that she is an equal opportunities Left basher, she sees a Red under every bed.
As an acerbic political observer put it, Mamata has never gone beyond being a street corner rabble-rouser. At times, her seeming simplicity was endearing. She craves approval and attention, she could barely contain her happiness when senior political leaders gave her a great deal of importance. She seemed to think that a common language put her on a par with the matchlessly erudite and able Pranab Mukherjee. She stomped her feet with rage at a great industrial house trying to set up shop in West Bengal. It packed up and went to greener pastures. She huffed and she puffed and tried to blow the UPA house down. But had to fold up her tent and go home to Kolkata, her crestfallen ministers in tow.
Her Trinamool goons have carte blanche to intimidate people and woe betide anyone who stands up to say that this is no different from the Left dadas' reign of terror. Our Didi goes one better. She has stormed a police station to free miscreants because they were from her party. You will rightly ask if she is a party leader first and the chief minister after, if at all she qualifies for that moniker.
This perpetually aggrieved act is wearing a bit thin. Those in government who viewed her with some indulgence no longer seem to bother about her pronouncements. Her recent endorsement of the government's foreign policy stand with regard to Sri Lanka - she loftily told us that foreign policy is the government's preserve - is at severe odds with her throwing a spanner in the works on the Teesta water-sharing issue with Bangladesh. The prime minister had hoped that more Teesta water would win over Bangladeshi hearts, only to have Didi throw cold water on his hopes.
I cannot think of a single positive step she has taken for Bengal since she assumed office. Investment has certainly not come calling after the Singur episode, there is no tourism effort worth the name in the state, there are no jobs being created and the Centre is not feeling too generous towards her. If a professional agency were to evaluate her leadership, she would probably be given the pink slip.
Mamatadi is in desperate need of a reality check. She must follow the advice of Bengal's greatest son Rabindranath Tagore who said, "To be outspoken is easy when you do not wait to speak the complete truth." And one of these days when she looks in the mirror, she will see that staring back at her is none other than little old Mamatadi. That is the day when poriborton, the real story will begin.