By Ashis Biswas
Once more, there is confirmation of the familiar public plaint that in their zeal to nestle ever closer to the ‘supreme ‘leader of the moment by using barefaced flattery, practicing politicians often cross all limits. Mostly the outcome is amusing, even as the glorified bigwigs squirm in embarrassment while people enjoy a hearty laugh!
A very good example comes not surprisingly from West Bengal where even accomplished leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) have been known to outdo each other in singing the praises of Chief minister Mamata Banerjee. No less laughable on such occasions are the consequences that follow — including the desperate efforts at self-justification by the grovelling politician to defend his/her tasteless toadyism.
On June 21, Dr Nirmal Maji high profile TMC MLA addressing a gathering created a sensation, claiming that chief minister Mamata Banerjee was none other the reincarnation of the universally revered saint Sarada Devi, wife of great spiritual leader Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Dr Maji, who in terms of political influence counts far more that the junior Minister of State for Health, explained that like Sarada Devi, Ms Banerjee was also born between the holy transitional hours when Mahaashnati ‘tithi’ turns into Mahanavami.
Besides, before she died, Dr Maji said, Sarada Devi had told Swami Vivekananda and others that she would be reborn in the Kalighat area of South Kolkata – near Harish Chatterjee Street, apparently. In her new avatar, she would again engage herself with service to the poor and spiritual work, and also participate in political activities!
Ages later, the telltale details all fitted and Ms Banerjee was the incarnation of the great saint…’She is Sarada, she is Nivedita’, Maji concluded, as his spellbound audience listened.
As the video went viral, not everyone, including TMC supporters themselves, could remain quiet. In the social media, hordes of underwhelmed commoners expressed their opinion of Dr Maji and his comments, without bothering too much about the nature of their language! As matters spiralled out of control, even TMC leaders admitted publicly that Maji’s much laboured efforts to praise his leader had been heavily overdone on this occasion.
Said Kunal Ghosh, TMC spokesman, ‘His comments were unfortunate, unwarranted and devoid of common sense. At times the competitive sycophancy (chatukarita in Bengali) among people trying to ingratiate themselves with their leaders is sickening.’ However, he was careful enough to add, ‘Besides Mamata Banerjee, as a leader who is popular all over India, needs no such efforts to promote her image. She shines alone, in her own glory’.
Not everyone agreed with Ghosh. Congress MP and leader Adhir Choudhury said that it was time for the TMC to discipline people like Dr Maji, who obviously lacked dignity and minimum self-respect, as he publicly abased himself before his supreme leader! ‘How low can you stop!’ he wondered.
State BJP leader Dilip Ghosh and Left leaders too spoke along similar lines. The BJP leader said that the very idea of comparing someone like Sarada Devi to a practicing politician already exposed as a corrupt, untruthful, scheming, vengeful politician was abominable. A Left leader said that through his obnoxious sycophantic comments, Maji, who had achieved a notoriety of sorts some time ago by ordering doctors of Medical college to perform a dialysis on the pet dog of a top TMC leader, had insulted Bengal’s cultural heritage.
A dignified rebuke came from the Ramakrishna Mission headquarters at Belur, Howrah. Swami Subirananda, in a brief, anguished statement, said there was nowhere any mention of the kind of conversation quoted by Dr Maji in the rich, well-maintained archives of the mission and its chequered history. Maji’s unfounded claim appeared totally meaningless and irrelevant and the mission was deeply distressed by his behaviour. Protests and distress calls had been received from large numbers of devotees and mission members in India and abroad.
Mission authorities fervently appealed to all sections of the society not to engage in such aimless wild pursuits in the name of the greatest spiritual leaders in the country.
There was however, no word issued from the Chief Minister’s office in West Bengal, nor any apology from Dr Maji himself.
Amused observers pointed out that even in Independent India, the cult of mindless sycophancy was far from dead. While late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was strongly against personality cults, the same could not be said for her daughter Indira Gandhi. There is no record of her objecting to the late Dev Kanta Barooah’s adulatory reference to her, (India is Indira, Indira is India), let alone of issuing even a mild warning.
The BJP’s record is not necessarily any better. Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee had compared his bête noire Mrs Gandhi, comparing her to goddess Durga, after her successful political stewardship during the Indo-Pak war over the birth of Bangladesh as an independent country in 1971. The ruling Congress spoilt its own record soon afterwards, imposing a national emergency in 1975. Again, with due apologies to Dilip Ghosh, it needs stating that the RSS a few years later had described Mamata Banerjee as the ‘Durga of Bengal ‘ in a certain context.
As an example, one can recall painter Subhaprasanna’s claim that poet Tagore himself would have richly awarded Mamata Banerjee for the ‘high merit of her literary efforts’. Or similar claims by dramatist Bratya Basu and ex MP Arpita Ghosh. Both found striking parallels between Ms Banerjee and Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin.
Clearly Dr Maji, even as he gets hauled over the coals for now, can draw comfort in that in Bengal at any rate, he is in good company. (IPA Service)