Has the agent of change herself has changed? The way West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee abused her own security guards at the Kolkata book fair on Wednesday just because there was a delay in the arrival of her car suggests that. It was said that Banerjee, who was feeling jittery amid the increasing crowd in the fair, was looking to move out from the fair and lost her cool to see that her car had still not arrived. She lashed out at her security guards, saying: "You should be whipped!" A complaint was filed against Banerjee on Thursday.
This is how a CM behaves publicly?
Banerjee's behaviour seemed surprising to many. Is this how a state's highest public representative, even more a leader whose foundation is laid among the common men and all those who do not belong to the elite, conduct in the public? Or is this a trend of 'elitisation of the sub-altern'?
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo has been held close to the heart in all these years particularly by those who have felt being let down by a centrist elitist political culture, nurtured all these years by the Left leadership.
Banerjee, whose journey began as a firebrand street-smart politician, is often mocked at by her detractors about her lesser sophistication in public speaking and wearing hawai chappal. But the leader still emerged as a powerful political icon in Bengal and also to a significant extent in the national politics because somewhere the sub-altern identified it easily with her.
Her simplistic slogan of Ma, Mati, Manush made a bigger appeal than the theoretical Left jargons which are better consumed by the elite and the middle-class. Her disregard for super security sent a message that she was a leader next-door.
In all, here was a leader with a clean image who was held the future leader of the oppressed not only in the state but of the entire nation.
But the expectation saw a premature death. In the last twenty months since Banerjee's party assumed power, people have witnessed the chief minister insulting and abusing individuals from across the social spectrum. Whether it is raped women belonging to diverse strata or a university professor or a 'elite-class' student or a cornered farmer or members of the civil society or security guards, Banerjee has humiliated all of them in the same tone.
A misanthropic leader?
Is Banerjee mainly a misanthropic whose public goodwill is shaped by a kind of cheap populism? Might be. There could be three reasons that have contributed to Banerjee's mercurial nature.
First, she has made her political journey all by herself and without a mentor as is normally the case with India's other female politicians and knowing how difficult it is to climb up the ladder of power, Banerjee can not resist the temptation to wield her power wand now after reaching the top.
Second, being a woman might also have contributed to her temperamental nature for in Indian politics, women still have to fight several odds to rewrite the rules of the game.
And third, is the fact that she is a loner also ignite a sense of distrust in her? Indira Gandhi's authoritarian style of functioning too could be attributed to similar reasons. Does women power corrupts more?
Administrative failure irritating her?
Apart from the human nature aspect, Banerjee's irritation is also caused by her administrative failure. The leader, who is finding more and more adversaries taking birth faster than her rainbow coalition had taken form once against the Left, is getting jittery for she knows she has no immediate solution available for any of the big problems plaguing Bengal today. Or why should she feel annoyed with a thickening crowd at a big book fair?
Moreover, the book fair in Kolkata currently takes place in a venue which does not a great connectivity, compared to the previous one. Crowd management and traffic approach arrangements are not in the best of conditions. If there is indeed chaos in such a situation, who is to be blamed? Why Banerjee was standing at the public gate, knowing very well that a VIP's presence would only add to the commotion. Banerjee's inefficient administration and its follies expose her everyday and the CM's angry reaction tells the story.
It is a tragedy that the frustration of not getting approval of the elite and middle classes is taking a toll on Banerjee's core constituencies. This is where politics without planning and strategy falters.