By Sugato Hazra
Mamata is an irresistible subject, at least to the Indian media. Her rebellious attitude as a politician and even as a Union minister in New Delh ifound many a sneering mentions. Coupled with her weak command over any language other than her mother tongue and steadfast refusal to climb up in social ladder the West Bengal chief minister remained a scribe’s delightful punching bag. And she is no Narendra Modi, another favourite punching bag. Modi is a strong communicator and has emerged as a darling of Indian industry. Mamata in contrast espoused the cause of the land displaced persons of Singur against the much hyped Tata Nano, the small car having insignificant position in India’s booming car market. She managed to turn the table on the erudite with her stunning electoral victories, first in 2009 and again in 2011. But those were the silences of the hurt who remained on the prowl for the feisty leader’s much expected impetuous mistakes.
To the utter discomfort of many it took some time before she fell prey to her well known weakness – let the mouth shoot before the brain tells her to. It came when a lady got raped by some fellow night-club visitors after the fun time. The intensity of the attack on Mamata needs a bit action replay of yet another event. It happened on a December night when a posh nursing home in South Kolkata caught fire. A world record of death in a hospital and swift steps by the administration including arrests of directors rattled the rich and the well connected ones from Kolkata. Out came many a legal brains talking of non-executive directors’ responsibility. Even certain newspapers did report on how a particular community which contributed to the economy of the state were being singled out due to AMRI fire. What the well manicured reports winked at is if the past contribution can exonerate the members of the community from a sin committed now. While the media campaign could not change the public views, nor those of the learned judges, media had to wait for an opportunity. It was now a matter of time before a large scale Mamata bashing broke out.
Opportunity came in February when Mamata could not control her penchant of talking too early. When a mother of two while returning from a night club took lift from three, fellow visitors of the joint, and got raped Mamata claimed that it was stage managed. While the stage of the rape was managed by the circumstances the Chief Minister should not have commented on a police case. The media was delirious with the much sought after opportunity provided. Mamata’s administration managed to identify the rapists. The case is now in the court. The fact that media did never accept is that while the West Bengal chief minister was hasty in expressing her opinion she did not stop the investigation. Moreover the circumstances of the rape did not generate much public sympathy one likes to admit it or not.
Here the Jadavpur University professor’s case offered the much needed opportunity to the Kolkata media. Ambikesh Mahapatra, a teacher in Kolkata’s Jadavpur University was assaulted by Trinamool workers and arrested for circulating defamatory cartoon on the chief minister. The offence was bailable but still there was delay in giving him bail. His assailants were also arrested but received bail faster than Mahapatra. In all likelihood the incidence was due to overzealous cadres supported by their crony policemen, a culture of West Bengal born, nurtured and institutionalized in the last 34 years of Left rule. But when Mamata is the chief minister the media must target her. Two of her ministers did also help media by volunteering uncalled for comments. One must admit that Mamata is a victim of circumstances in the Mahapatra case.
There is a small background on media over the Mahapatra incidence. A publication owner in the city had to seek anticipatory bail for publishing a cartoon which had enraged the minority community. There was FIR against the publication for fomenting communal trouble. But the same could not become an issue. Hence media’s fondness for Mahapatra.
Mamata is caught in a communication trap. Her impatience is a problem. Her cadres, including ministers, are greater problem. The street fighter in her eggs her on. But her role has now reversed. She cannot afford to show her belligerence even if that is the natural reaction for a person like Mamata. What she needs now is someone like Abhishek Manu Singhvi to defend the indefensible, to thwart the media poison and to force a working atmosphere of trust between the government and media. Mamata must not forget that she was never a media sponsored politician. She can never be. She should now concentrate on administration which includes revamping the party structure. It goes to her credit that post-election there was no violence in the state. If only Mamata can tame the rogue elements among her cadres and administration she will remain invincible in the state. No amount of bashing by mainstream media can take away the Mamata (compassion) she has for her support base. They might not be audience for the media of well-heeled but finally they are the voters. Elites like it or not, this is the rule of democracy. Mamata’s prime support base is intact. (IPA Service)
(The author is a communication professional. Views expressed are his personal.)