Kolkata, Feb 11: Political opponents and civil society groups Monday flayed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for calling photo-journalists “uncivilized” and threatening to slap them, just days after threatening to whip her security personnel.
“What she says does not matter. We will have to do our work. And we will continue to do it,” veteran filmmaker Mrinal Sen said, when asked about his response to the chief minister’s threats.
Banerjee made the “slap” comments as lensmen crowded around her at the Mati Utsab (Soil Festival) in Panagarh, Bardhaman district.
“Ek chor debo. Asabhyagulo! Dekhchen na agune ranna hocche! (I will slap you! Uncivilised people! Don’t you see (they are cooking?)” Banerjee told the photojournalists.
Banerjee, on a visit to a stall where pancakes were being made, lost her composure after some flower pots overturned as security personnel tried to put a cordon around photo-journalists.
Television cameras picked up the chief minister’s words, which were widely broadcast.
Painter Samir Aich said the chief minister was overcome with fatigue, and some rest might make her more even-tempered.
Opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist central committee member Md Salim was not inclined to such charity: “This reflects a feudal mindset. When she took over (as chief minister), the media and many civil society members started saying she has changed from an opposition leader to an administrator. Now, under pressure, her real self is emerging.”
Union minister and Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said: “Banerjee is no mood to spare anyone. Not the police, not the media.”
Chowdhury’s party colleague and union minister Deepa Dasmunsi said that Banerjee’s behaviour was unbecoming of a political leader, leave alone chief minister.
“The chief minister cannot talk so coarsely. We all face stress, and it’s true there is a lot of pressure on political leaders. But they cannot fall to such crude expression.”
State Bharatiya Janata Party chief Rahul Sinha said he had no words to respond to the recent utterances of the chief minister. “I said earlier that perhaps she needed counselling. What more can I say? These comments are a blot on the pride and prestige of Bengal.”
Last Wednesday, emerging from the Kolkata International Book Fair, Banerjee lashed out at her security staff, who took several minutes to bring her car to where she stood outside the venue.
The chief minister was seen screaming to her security staff: “Apnader dhore chabkano uchit, chabkano uchit apnader dhore (You should be whipped)”.