In June 2019, Fiery speech by Mahua Moitra on the “seven first signs of fascism” caused a sensation. Although Treasury bench MPs tried to shout it out, the Congresswoman for Trinamool, making her maiden speech, went on for about 10 minutes, eventually ending with the scathing endorsement of the opposition benches and members of his own party.
Two years later, a joint, no less fiery, landed Moitra in a spot, with FIR and multiple complaints against it. Moitra’s July 5 remarks, during an India Today East Conclave interaction, about the goddess Kali – made against the backdrop of outcry over objections to Canadian filmmaker Leena Manimekalai’s documentary Kaali – created a waver, sparking outrage from BJP and Hindu groups and disapproval from his party, the Trinamool Congress. The few voices of support, if any, were largely drowned out.
Growing up, Moitra rarely, if ever, strayed from the beaten path. Born in Assam into a family of tea growers, she studied hard, passed her school exams, won a scholarship to pursue studies in mathematics and economics at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, and landed a well-paying job in as a banker in New York. and London.
Somewhere along that path, she paused – and took a different turn. That moment of reflection came during his 10th college reunion in 2008, Moitra told a student rally in July 2019. “Do I want to come back to my 20th reunion as another chief executive of JP Morgan or do I want to come back having made a difference?
This time, Moitra did not hedge its bets. She returned to India, had a brief stint in Congress where she led the Rahul Gandhi-designed ‘Aam aadmi ka sipahi’ booth campaign in Bengal, before joining the Trinamool Congress in 2010.
Now, as she fights a lonely struggle against strident calls for her arrest, the first female MP from Krishnanagar constituency in West Bengal remains unfazed.
“I would like to reiterate that I have in no way endorsed or said a single word about the film or the poster. My statement was fact and experience of how Ma Kali is revered by her devotees and what “She means to me. Religion is an integral part of our personal lives and it’s high time we took that bull by the horns and reaffirmed our right to be able to speak about our beliefs and practices,” she said at the Sunday Express.
His remarks are consistent with Trinamool’s vigorous invocation of Bengali sub-nationalism, a strategy that helped the party counter the BJP’s Hindutva narrative in 2021 Assembly polls. of Moitra risk torpedoing its growth prospects beyond its territory, the Trinamool quickly distanced itself.
In a highly polarized atmosphere, where Trinamool continues to speak out against ‘divisive politics’ while trying to fend off BJP attacks on ‘appeasement of minorities’, Moitra’s remarks may have upset that balance. tricky for the party. Kolkata Police had, after all, sent summons to Nupur Sharma and the Assembly passed a resolution against the BJP leader’s comments on the Prophet Muhammad.
“It’s not just what she said, but how she said it. To say that Maa Kali is offered whiskey is different from saying that Maa Kali is offered karon sudha (an alcoholic drink offered at the feet of the goddess in some traditions). Saying that Maa Kali eats meat is different from the concept of animal sacrifice, which has also diminished over the years due to greater awareness and legal interventions. A good speaker keeps these nuances in mind,” a TMC executive said on condition of anonymity.
But Moitra thinks religion on tiptoes benefits the BJP. “A lot of people tell me to avoid talking about religion in these times. This is exactly why the BJP was able to impose its version of Hinduism on us. Hinduism is not their territory and I won’t give an inch,” she said.
After a three-year term as an MP from the largely rural constituency of Karimpur on the Bangladesh border, Moitra was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2019 from Krishnanagar. Shortly after, she was appointed chairperson of the party’s Nadia district – a sign of party leader Mamata Banerjee’s confidence in Moitra.
But it was in Parliament that she stood out, with her articulate speeches that often raised the opposition exhausted in strength and spirit. She has also filed petitions with the Supreme Court against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the Sedition Act.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who was among the few to back Moitra after the outcry over her remarks, told the Sunday Express: “I have seen Mahua in action in two capacities – as a speaker in the debates of Lok Sabha on behalf of his party, and as an active member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology. She was impressive in both roles,” he said.
Tharoor’s colleague in the party and parliament, Karti Chidambaram of Congress, said: “Mahua is a very fiery and passionate member of parliament. She is single, educated, independent and an opinionated woman, the idea of which is not something the BJP likes. This is the reason why he attacks her sharply and brutally.
Yet there are others who say Moitra’s conduct in the House borders on “immature and impulsive”. During the last budget session, she lost her temper when the President interrupted his speech for running over his time, and later even tweeted criticizing President Om Birla. The Chamber had condemned his behavior the following day.
A Rajya Sabha MP said: “Everyone keeps their distance from her as MPs think she is a bit temperamental. Articulated but strident.
Sharp, immature, impulsive. Moitra ignores these labels, even grabs them. “If a man has those qualities, he’s a leader, but if a woman has them, he’s a slut. It’s on all levels. It’s part of the territory, and now I like tags rather than trying to fight them,” she said.
However, talk of his “arrogance” resonates in Nadia district, which is part of the Krishnanagar constituency of Moitra.
On June 22, shortly before the State Assembly was to convene after a break in debate, those in the front rows, mostly Trinamool ministers, had returned to find a yellow pamphlet on their tables. The leaflet was a list of grievances against their deputy for Krishnanagar, Moitra. The plaintiff, who was called Pratikar Mondol, alleged that as Nadia District Chairman, Moitra would “regularly humiliate senior district leaders”.
A Trinamool leader from Nadia said: “She thinks humiliating senior leaders is the only way to show strength. She forgets that these leaders are at the origin of the deep roots of the party.
Another younger leader, however, disagrees: “She has her own way of building an organization. She is articulate, well-educated, and tech-savvy. Some senior leaders who are backdated are not ready to accept it.
In August last year, Moitra was dropped as president of Nadia of Trinamool as the district unit under her leadership struggled to get a grip on factional infighting and failed to show up to the Assembly elections – the party won only eight of 17 seats, with the BJP taking the rest. .
Last December, Banerjee had during an administrative review meeting in Nadia ticked Moitra off on the infighting in the district ahead of the municipal elections. In a video that went viral, Moitra was seen nodding quietly as Banerjee lifted her up. The incident was the first sign that Moitra may have found himself on the wrong side of management.
On the allegations, Moitra said, “Every human being is misunderstood by someone or the other at various times in life. The most important thing is to be true to yourself.”
In the early 18th century, Raja Krishnachandra Roy, an influential zamindar of Nadia after whom the constituency of Moitra Krishnanagar would be named, issued annual dictates, ordering people to worship Goddess Kali, warning his subjects of punishment in case of disrespect.
“As a result of these orders, in more than 10,000 houses, in one night, in the zillah of Krishnanagar, the worship of the goddess was celebrated. The number of animals destroyed could not have been less than 10,000,” Baptist missionary William Ward documented in his book A View of the History, Literature and Religion of the Hindoos.
As the region’s modern public representative struggles with a political crisis over her remarks about the same deity, it’s a parallel hard to miss.