Mamata Banerjee is a nationalist, not a Maoist. We believe that not only because she said so herself but also because no Maoist would deliver such a stirring speech in Parliament as a Government of India minister defending one person: herself, the Railway Minister. After being rather unfairly tagged ‘accident minister’ and criticised for hardly being in Delhi to clear alleged pending files, Ms Banerjee launched into an impassioned speech in the Lok Sabha. Trains, she reminded her detractors, don’t fly in the sky. Then she proceeded to present the anatomy of foul play: “They [trains] go through villages. Some people dislodge the clips. Some cause bomb blasts.” Quite.
But what made us stand up and thump on anything wooden near our vicinity was when she proclaimed that she was “neither God nor Allah” — a neat, roundabout way of stamping her credentials despite her NDA past — and that
she can’t satisfy everybody. Then came the coup de grace: “Show me a single file that is pending. I challenge.” That last bit was a rousing repetition of another moment of passive-aggression: “What I have done in one year for you was not done in 50 years. I challenge.”
The ‘I challenge’ line, worthy of Robert Graves and Isaac Asimov, is still ringing in our ears. One can almost mistake Didi’s throwing of the gauntlet being an echo from a freedom fighter of the past. The real challenge, as we can see it, is for someone with the stomach for a bout of verbal calisthenics with Didi. We challenge, on behalf of Ms Banerjee, any other minister to challenge the world at large to judge them so brazenly. The rest, as they say, is chicanery.