Indian lawmaker — Mahua Moitra, 47 — member of the Parliament from Krishnanagar, West Bengal is known for her cerebral acumen and eloquent poise.
She has an unerring ability to make an impact in parliament and capture headlines — huge assets for a mainstream politician but today Moitra finds herself isolated in the Trinamool Congress (TMC) after her controversial remarks on Kali (Hindu deity).
Ironically, Moitra who began her political career in the Congress party found herself in utter isolation in the Grand Old Party which is when she shifted to TMC.
Moitra, who has graduated in Economics and Maths from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in the United States, worked as a president in JP Morgan before she quit and took a plunge in active politics.
Currently Moitra is one of the best speakers in the Parliament — passionate and articulate yet she has had scores of criminal cases filed against her across the country on her Kali remark. The ace leader appears to be entirely friendless with only Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP, defending her.
Previously Mahua had scores of cases booked against her for her tweets on former Supreme Court Chief Justice and current nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, Ranjan Gogoi.
So why has Moitra become a liability for the TMC in West Bengal, which ironically is run by a three-term woman Chief Minister (CM) Mamata Banerje? The West Bengal CM had earlier ticked off Moitra in a party meeting, which was mysteriously recorded and which went viral much to the glee of Moitra’s detractors in the party.
I asked some MPs why they didn’t defend Moitra as a colleague? The answers, accompanied by much shuffling of feet and sheepish smiles, was that Moitra was a “memsahib” (upper-class woman) and didn’t need to be supported and she had a penchant for controversy and liked staying in headlines. So why should they support her?
“She has zero humility. All she wants to do is preen on television after her shrill speeches. What was the need for that Kali comment,” an MP from the Left told Gulf News. His words were nearly echoed by a TMC colleague of Moitra in the Lok Sabha.
Banerjee ensured that the TMC publicly disowned Moitra’s comments and went one step further and criticised them. This was the signal for the party to distance itself from Moitra.
Senior party members spoke in ominous tones of action against her. Moitra brazened her way out saying nothing about the TMC action but attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and saying she would not budge from her comments on the deity.
A strong voice
The foreground of Moitra controversy and the reaction against her across the political spectrum proves yet again why educated, strong women with a voice prove to be a source of discomfiture to male politicians.
As long as a woman politician is a Sadvi (spiritual leader) swathed in saffron, the wife of a leader or even the daughter of a leader, political parties in India have no problem.
A sari-clad woman leader with all the marks of matrimony such as sindoor and mangalsutra (synonymous with married Hindu woman) in our society are acceptable to male leaders. A modern woman who speaks her mind is still a no-no.
What Moitra said is open to debate but not the lynch mob against her. Why can’t a woman be ambitious in politics just like men? Women leaders are still having to answer questions which would never be asked of their male counterparts.
Campaigns like “Beti padhao, Beti bachao” (save girls, educate them) are cosmetic as the patriarchy still can’t deal with real women without slotting them in a benign slot.