Mahua Moitra is becoming increasingly unpopular in her own party and constituency, so much so that there is a buzz that she may not even get a ticket to fight the Lok Sabha elections next year.
NEW DELHI: There is something about Mahua Moitra that makes her the darling of the left “liberati”—the way she attacks the Prime Minister on Twitter; is always combative, abrasive and arrogant; delivers rousing speeches on fascism in Parliament in impeccable English; walks around swinging her fancy foreign-made bags; exudes an air of upper crust haughtiness and confidence—superior to all and sundry. Anything but dowdy, and always neatly turned out, she is also the rare politician to get featured on the cover of a fashion magazine; she also commands a following on social media, where one will find at least one fan club dedicated to her. In short, the world is for Mahua’s to conquer—the mighty leader from Bengal, who has, if her fandom in the Delhi media has to be believed, the potential to become the Chief Minister of the state, sooner than later. Just the kind of Chief Minister that her upper crust followers want—glamorous, stylish and a far cry from many of her “provincial” party colleagues. It is a different matter that the haughtiness of Trinamool Congress’ (TMC’s) Member of Parliament from a semi-rural Krishnanagar Lok Sabha seat, is making her increasingly unpopular in her own party and constituency, so much so that there is a buzz that she may not even get a ticket to fight the Lok Sabha elections next year. So why is the ground slipping beneath Mahua Moitra’s feet in Bengal?
Mahua Moitra has attracted controversy ever since she was elected from the Krishnanagar seat in 2019. More often than not, she has been blamed for the infighting in the party’s Nadia district unit. She has been accused of putting the party in a difficult spot with her tweets several times, and at least on two occasions she was rebuked by party supremo Mamata Banerjee.
According to sources within the TMC, Mahua Moitra does not share a cordial relationship with either the party’s organisational district president for Nadia, Kallol Khan, or with Krishnanagar Dakshin MLA and state minister Ujjwal Biswas. Moitra is also often accused of not toeing the party line. As a result, as recently as November last year, Mamata Banerjee, during her visit to Nadia district, had to ask her party leaders to work together and end the infighting that is rampant in the district. The Krishnanagar Lok Sabha seat is part of the Nadia district.
In September 2022 as well, a stern message was given to Mahua Moitra by Mamata Banerjee, warning her against interfering in the party’s organisational affairs. “Karimpur (Assembly seat in Nadia) is no longer Mahua’s jurisdiction, it is Abu Taher’s (elected MLA). You focus only on your Lok Sabha seat,” Mamata Banerjee was reported to have told Moitra in September. Karimpur was Mahua Moitra’s Assembly seat from 2016, before she was shifted to Krishnanagar to fight the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
“Mamata Banerjee issued her a stern warning during that meeting with the booth workers, in September. Moitra is often accused of meddling in party affairs, which she is not supposed to do. Several complaints have been sent to the top leadership about her. She wants to take control of the entire Nadia district, while she is just an MP and does not hold any organisational post,” a TMC worker from Nadia district told The Sunday Guardian.
“She wants to project herself as another Mamata Banerjee. She comes to Krishnanagar, plays carom, meets with people from some clubs, makes tea on the roadside and then goes away. She is the VVIP MP. It is very difficult for the common electorate to even meet her,” added the TMC worker.
In December 2021, in a publicly telecast administrative review meeting, Mamata Banerjee had rebuked Mahua Moitra for indulging in factionalism.
Allegedly, Moitra had organised a protest against her own party’s district president, Jayanta Saha, with whom she was not in good terms. She allegedly put out some photographs and videos of the protest on social media and sent these to the media for publishing.
This irked Mamata Banerjee so much that she publicly berated Moitra during the meeting. The Chief Minister said, “Mahua, let me tell you one thing clearly, I don’t want to see who is against whom and who is not. If someone does not like a person that does not mean that you will plant some people and make them protest and then put it on YouTube and social media and give this news to some section of the media. This kind of politics can survive only for a short time; this cannot go on for long. One person cannot remain in the same post forever and when elections come, the party will decide who will get the ticket. There should not be any differences of opinion, everyone should work together. I am saying this, because I know everything.”
Moitra was rebuked by the party in July 2022 as well, after she put the TMC in a fix with her remarks on Goddess Kali as a meat-eating and alcohol-drinking Goddess. The party immediately distanced itself from her comments and condemned her for her “casual” remarks on a serious matter. Following this, Moitra unfollowed the party’s official Twitter handle. All this did not go down well with the top leadership of the TMC.
Sources from the TMC hint that the party may not consider giving her a ticket in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, because, they say, “Apart from making flowery speeches in Parliament, she has hardly done anything for the party.”
Many within the TMC, behind closed doors and some even openly, have been criticising Mahua and her “opinions” on different issues that the party has to keep defending.
One senior TMC leader from Kolkata, while speaking to The Sunday Guardian said, “Mahua Moitra presents herself as an elite, English speaking, foreign returned lady who wants to be in the same league as Shashi Tharoor. Yes, she is well educated, studied in a first world university and has had the best education, but she must realise that she represents a state that is simple and believes in simplicity. She often crosses the party line and gets scolded by the party chief. But the question is: for how long will the party have to keep defending her because of her tendency to speak callously on everything?”
Mahua Moitra’s “aggressive” social media presence and tweets have put the party in a fix on a number of occasions. She is seen as someone who often takes to Twitter to tweet her opinion even before taking the approval of the party on its stand on any particular issue. “She is also one of the first to tweet about everything and every issue that makes national headlines. She wants to grab national headlines and be in the national news. It is good to have national ambitions, but not with something that the party will face difficulty. Her fierce speeches in Parliament are also carefully drafted to attract the attention of the national media and hit the headlines and she has been successful in doing so. At times, it also helps the party to be in the national news, but when it becomes about an individual and not the party, then it becomes a problem,” another TMC leader from Kolkata told this newspaper.
Moitra had also embroiled herself in a controversy with the media by calling journalists “two paisa press”, in 2020, belittling the profession. The entire media fraternity of Bengal and the country had strongly protested against her comments. The Press Club of Kolkata had called for an unconditional apology from the MP, but what came as an apology through her tweet was another belittlement of the profession and the media professionals.
She had tweeted, “I apologise for the mean, hurtful, accurate things I said… My meme editing skills are improving.” A section of the media in Kolkata had then decided to boycott Moitra and not to air her comments in their respective media channels. Some of the journalists that this correspondent spoke to from Kolkata also expressed their displeasure with her conduct.
“She considers herself as the ‘queen lord’, where people like us are like peasants. We have covered several high-profile politicians over the years, but no one showed so much arrogance the way she does,” a journalist from Kolkata told this correspondent.
Mahua Moitra was also sent by the TMC to Goa with much fanfare as the party’s in-charge to oversee the 2022 Assembly elections in that state. Moitra, with her urban, English-speaking facade was thought would be an asset to the party in its attempt to reach out to the voters in the state. However, that venture turned out to be a misadventure and the TMC was wiped out from the electoral scene, by securing 5% of the popular votes, and by failing to win even a single seat. The Mahua factor proved to be a dud.
The Sunday Guardian reached out to Mahua Moitra for her comments on the allegations, but did not get any responses from her until the time of going to the press.