Union Minister Choudhury Mohan Jatua lists “talking with family members” as a hobby. Not surprising, because apart from family and loyalists, he may find it tough to get an audience to listen to his unending tales of valour as a cop.
After retiring from the police force, Jatua walked up to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and asked her to nominate him as the party candidate to contest the elections. And she did, though for the Legislative Assembly instead of Parliament.
“I was waiting for a call from the top (read God) because I had reached a dead end after retirement (in 1996),” he says.
His self-esteem dipped. “I felt I had no capabilities — otherwise why would the government retire me?”
But Mamata Banerjee gave him a fresh lease of life. In 2001 Jatua joined her party and within eight years, rose to be a Member of Parliament and first-time minister with the coveted Information and Broadcasting portfolio.
There is a story, though unconfirmed, about his initial days as minister. During a press meet, his mobile phone rang several times, interrupting the conference. His ring tone: Mitwa from the Hindi film Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. A visibly embarrassed Jatua tried to put the phone, which had been purchased a few hours earlier, on silent but did not know how to handle it.
Whatever may be the truth, Jatua’s fascination for Hindi songs is well known. He often listens to “Manna Dey and Hemanto Mukherjee” (Hemant Kumar to north Indians).
He tells you about the several cases he cracked as a cop. As an officer in the CID, he was instrumental, he says, in getting a 16-year-old girl to confess to the murder of her parents, who were opposing her relationship with her paramour. “She kept saying that robbers had attacked the house and killed her parents and tied her to a tree,” Jatua recalls. “But the question which nagged me was if they could kill the parents why would they leave her as an eyewitness”.
The trigger was enough to solve the murder mystery, which had rocked Kolkata. If you have the time he is more than willing to go over his four-decade police career, “a short history of a long life” — as he sums it up.
“As a police officer, Jatua fought against corruption,” Union Minister of State for Shipping and Jatua’s Trinamool colleague Mukul Roy says. “As a politician, he will do his bit to fight for the rights of the people.”