Will form a coalition of women opposition leaders in Rajya Sabha, says TMC MP Sagarika Ghose | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Will form a coalition of women opposition leaders in Rajya Sabha, says TMC MP Sagarika Ghose

Jun 22, 2024 06:05 PM IST

Sagarika Ghose has been anointed as the deputy chief of the parliamentary party in Rajya Sabha, and is raring to go all guns blazing against the Modi government

'Price of liberty is eternal vigilance'- There aren't too many Indian MPs who would quote Thomas Jefferson (third President of the United States) to explain why they have taken up cudgels against the current regime, but Sagarika Ghose is no ordinary politician. 

Trinamool Congress MP Sagarika Ghose.( Vipin Kumar/ Hindustan Times)
Trinamool Congress MP Sagarika Ghose.( Vipin Kumar/ Hindustan Times)

For the uninitiated, Sagarika Ghose, a former Rhodes scholar and leading journalist of her era, post a brief sabbatical from the TV screens, is back in public life, but this time in a very different avatar -- as a Rajya Sabha MP of the Trinamool Congress. 

ALSO READ: Who is Sagarika Ghose, renowned journalist nominated by Trinamool Congress for Rajya Sabha polls?

Sagarika has been anointed as the deputy chief of the parliamentary party in Rajya Sabha, and is raring to go all guns blazing against the Modi government, which is back in office for the third time with reduced majority. 

Before her first Parliamentary session, Hindustan Times caught up with Sagarika Ghose where she spoke about her plans, the party's strategy for Modi 3.0, women in politics and how she buried the hatchet with Mamata Banerjee post the infamous viral video of 2012.

ALSO READ: ‘Inspired by Mamata's courage’: Journalist Sagarika Ghose as TMC names her Rajya Sabha candidate

‘Bengal model of women empowerment in politics’: Sagarika

Sagarika believes there is a Bengal Model of women empowerment in politics which has paved the way for her and others to get nominated to Rajya Sabha. She credits Mamata Banerjee for not only facilitating schemes like Kanyashree, Lakshmir Bhandar targeted for women but for also ensuring that there is strong women leadership in all the functioning blocks of democracy, from Panchayat to Parliament. 

Sagarika's promotion into the leadership role is in line with the TMC supremo's plan of empowering women in politics. 

Sagarika is eager to form a coalition of strong women opposition leaders in the Parliament to corner the government very early in its third term. To push legislative agendas, she is willing to reach across the aisle but remains skeptical about how much BJP members would reciprocate.

The NTA saga has hit Modi 3.0 virtually cutting short its honeymoon period. However, the TMC government in the state of West Bengal has also faced several recruitment scams where the smooth conducting of exams has been an issue. 

Sagarika Ghose believes the trick lies in hiring professionals to run these institutions. "Also excessive centralisation and the 'obsession' with one size fits all solution is leading to erosion of systems," laments TMC's newly minted Rajya Sabha MP.

During the Lok Sabha election, the TMC ensured real-time fact check of all claims made by PM Modi on the campaign trail in Bengal. 

‘Modi 3.0 in borrowed time, may soon collapse’: Sagarika

Buoyed by its success, the party plans to continue this during the Parliamentary sessions, too. Sagarika echoes Rahul Gandhi's claim that Modi 3.0 is in borrowed time and may soon collapse. However, contrary to the popular choice inside the INDIA camp, the TMC MP wants Mallikarjun Kharge as the prospective PM, a name first floated by her party supremo in one of the opposition meetings. 

While it seems that there is no real immediate scope for Mamata Banerjee occupying the top spot in Indian politics, Sagarika believes Didi indeed fits the bill as a woman making it big without any political legacy. 

Citing examples of names like Indira Gandhi, Jayalalitha, Sheikh Hasina, Benazir Bhutto and Srimavo Bandaranaike among others, Sagarika wonders if Mamata is indeed a rare exception in South Asian politics, where usually women leaders gain power through association and aren't necessarily self-made.

As she gushes effusively about her leader, words veer towards that infamous interview in 2012, when Mamata Banerjee lost her cool and left a town hall anchored by Sagarika Ghose. 

Even at a time when the words 'Reel' and 'Stories' meant something very different, at the infancy of social media, the video had gone viral. Sagarika, when quizzed about it, cites an example of another similar face-off between journalist Karan Thapar and then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in 2007, and counters by saying would the PM ever think of offering a Rajya Sabha seat to the anchor. 

Sagarika believes that the fact that Mamata could look beyond that kerfuffle and offer her a Rajya Sabha seat a decade later, shows how big a democrat she is. The former anchor recollects that Bengal CM despite that public fallout had never harboured any rancour against her, and that they were in constant touch. 

She claims Mamata had called her just ten minutes after walking out of the show, Sagarika ascribes Mamata's knee jerk reaction as a defensive mechanism of a battle-hardened politician who was still learning the ropes of being a chief minister. 

She was a 'trainee CM' at that time, says the MP citing words of another senior journalist. Hence, even normal queries felt like part of a grand conspiracy. The Rajya Sabha MP also highlights how Didi has faced constant ridicule, mocking, and derision from a section of the society. 

She goes on to say women politicians face the double assault of being mocked for how they look, their attire, their voice, etc. aside from their work, unlike their male counterparts. As someone who often attracts severe heckling on social media, Sagarika Ghose says her coping mechanism is simple -- "completely ignoring abusive voices".

When quizzed about how she is adapting to the challenges of adhering strictly to the party line in her arguments, rather than highlighting all angles of a story, a fundamental requirement for any journalist, Sagarika claims she feels much 'liberated' now away from the 'poisonous prison'. 

The former journalist believes that TV media is currently completely toeing the line of the ruling regime whereas she doesn't have to filter her views in columns and public engagements. Sagarika claims that she is free to issue her viewpoint openly in meetings and Mamata Banerjee is very open to contrarian viewpoints and gives it a patient hearing.

Many journalists had earlier got Rajya Sabha tickets and later stepped away from active politics once their term ended. However, Sagarika Ghose has no such plans and is padding up for a long innings in public life. 

At 59, Ghose believes she has the time to make some meaningful changes in politics. Over the years, Mahua Moitra's takedown of the Modi government in the Lok Sabha has achieved a cult status. Only time will tell whether Sagarika can create similar ripples in the Rajya Sabha.

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