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Twice-wielded, bamboo is official weapon

Flower petals are showered on the car that ferried Madan Mitra to Alipore court on Saturday. Picture by Bibhash Lodh

Mamata shows her nephew Abhishek’s cellphone displaying a picture of Narendra Modi and another person whom she referred to as “Sahara”. Picture by Pradip Sanyal 

Calcutta, Dec. 13: David had a sling and a stone. Didi has Dendrocalamus calostachyus.

The botanical name shares the capital 'D' with Didi but it is better known as the Indian bamboo, evidently chief minister Mamata Banerjee's weapon of choice in her battle with the modern-day Goliaths of Delhi.

" Jara sat bhabe rajneeti korchhe tader pechhone bamboo deoar adhikar jodi tomar thake, tobe amaar o bolar adhikar aachhe (If you have the right to shove a bamboo up the rear of those who are doing honest politics, then I too have the right to speak)," Mamata told "sportspersons" who rallied today to protest the arrest of sports and transport minister Madan Mitra in the Saradha case.

Once might be happenstance but twice in Bengal politics has to be more than coincidence. This is the second time in 10 days Mamata is unleashing the boorish bambooastra. She did so first in Jalpaiguri on December 3, to the accompaniment of a gesture so that no one would be in doubt what the chief minister - an avid champion of culture and an avowed admirer of Tagore - meant.

Today, while relaunching the bamboo missile, Mamata did not appear to have reprised the gesture, probably because the great communicator is aware that the long pole is by now indelibly etched in the political psyche of Bengal.

Without the faintest touch of irony, Mamata declared at the meeting near Eden Gardens that her crusade is also intended at saving the culture of Bengal, which she said was "under threat".

It is not clear whether the loyal culture clan of the chief minister would henceforth be seen wielding a bamboo pole or a stick in public. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had identified itself with the broom while the umbrella became the symbol of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

The bamboo, after all, is much more potent - and painful, if the chief minister's graphic description is any indication - than either the broom or the umbrella.

Mamata herself gave a taste of the "cultural" campaign ahead - promising to uphold the dignity of her post and undermining it in the same breath.

"I hold a post so I am not saying this. Noyto boltam tene jibh chhirhe nebo (Otherwise, I would have said, 'I'll tear out their tongues')," Mamata said of her political rivals who suggested the CBI should probe those who turned up at the rally.

The "culture" was also in evidence when Trinamul sympathisers shouted "shame, shame" in a courtroom to egg on Mitra and drown the arguments of the CBI counsel. A police vehicle was damaged and journalists of Times Now, the television news channel, were chased. 

Asked why a chief minister would feel compelled to use such language, a consultant clinical psychologist said: "Extreme frustration can lead to aggression. Language such as this is a form of aggression. But repeated use of such language also signifies familiarity with it."

In keeping with the exalted status of the bamboo, the first foe facing the thrust is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mamata demanded Modi's arrest, saying he had shared the dais with "Sahara". The reference appeared to be to Subrata Roy, now in jail in a financial case. Mamata was drawing a parallel with allegations that attendance at Saradha events made Mitra guilty.

Holding up a cellphone her nephew Abhishek Banerjee handed to her, Mamata said: "Should I show you photographs of Modi and Sahara? I have heard there is a red diary. It contains all the names. You will shiver on hearing the names."

Mamata added: "See, Aroop (Biswas, state housing minister) has found this on the Internet. Isn't this chit fund? There are photographs with Sahara... So, arrest the Prime Minister."

She asked Aroop to get 10 lakh posters of the photograph made and splash them.

The photograph appeared to have been taken when Roy attended Modi's third swearing-in ceremony in Ahmedabad on December 26, 2012.

If Mamata is going to make stage-sharing with Roy a ground for arrest, she will find it difficult to invite Amitabh Bachchan to inaugurate the Kolkata International Film Festival again. Bachchan, who used to be a regular face at Sahara events, had inaugurated Mamata's pet film festival three times in a row, including this year's edition last month.

In the Saradha scandal, thousands of poor depositors have lost money. In the Sahara case, questions are being asked about the identity of the depositors and whether they were fictitious.

Besides, by 2012, when Roy met Modi, Sahara's decline had begun. Saradha's most spectacular rise had taken place in the years Trinamul was in power.


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