When Mahua Moitra, the 44-year-old first-time Trinamool Congress MP, stood up to deliver her maiden speech in Lok Sabha Tuesday, heads turned.
It wasn’t just her forceful address listing out “seven danger signs of early fascism” in India that made the parliamentarians, the country and the global media at large, sit up and take note. By requesting the Lok Sabha Speaker to rein in “professional hecklers” – the BJP MPs trying to shout her down – Mahua Moitra may well have created a new path: of bringing the call out culture to Parliament.
Described as “memsahib” by Anandabazar Patrika when she first entered the electoral fray in 2016 West Bengal election, the Krishnanagar MP today seems poised to give it back to senior politicians in their own backyard. The male-dominated Indian Parliament has rarely seen its treasury benches called out so brazenly by a fellow woman MP, that too a first-timer, for their common act of interrupting and shouting down members on the mic.
For once, the BJP MPs were taken aback by this comeback from the opposition benches with which they have become quite used to dealing in the manner they like.
In her ten-minute speech, Mahua Moitra also questioned Narendra Modi-led BJP’s hyper nationalism, obsession with national security, and contempt for human rights. Her speech turned her into an overnight star and trend on social media.
A star politician is born
After 11 years in politics, Moitra is not new to media attention. But this adulation is certainly uncommon. Her “rising fascism” speech has been covered by the BBC, which had previously followed her around for two days during her election campaign trail, and has been called the “speech of the year” by Indians on social media.
Stunningly clear-eyed articulation of the spirit of dissent. Speech of the year by TMC MP Mahua Moitra: https://t.co/4KBDK7mugC
— Puja Mehra (@pujamehra) June 25, 2019
The former vice-president of JP Morgan, Moitra played down the accolade heaped on her and told ThePrint that the “onus is on us” to raise issues that matter. “We respect the huge mandate that the BJP got. But as a nation, we have to stand up and hold the mirror up to them.”
Not one to mince words, Moitra has time and again held her ground when bullied. During a TV debate on Times Now, then hosted by Arnab Goswami who now does the same thing at Republic TV, Moitra, exasperated by his constant refusal to let her speak, showed him the middle finger.
*Mahua Moitra First time MP second time Savage* pic.twitter.com/93tfUR3kiA
— Kunal Kamra (@kunalkamra88) June 27, 2019
Moitra also made the Centre withdraw its proposal to introduce a surveillance plan for citizens through a social media hub with her petition in the Supreme Court, and the UIDAI clarify that the government agency won’t look into citizens’ private conversations. against the Centre’s surveillance plan for citizens through social media.
Moitra has proved her mettle in politics after spending a better part of her growing up years in the United States. She says she does not regret trading her high-flying corporate life in the US with the rough and tumble of West Bengal politics.
“I was always interested in politics and wanted to work at the grassroots level,” she says.
And her experience in the cut throat world of investment banking is serving her well, Moitra says. “There are some things which are common to both banking and politics, like discipline, hard work and tenacity.”
Over the years, Moitra has earned the trust of West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. A chance meeting with her on a flight made her leave the Congress, which she had joined in 2008 after returning to India.
She has not looked back since and has been given bigger responsibilities. She was made the party general secretary and one of the spokespersons.
The admiration is mutual.
Moitra says the chief minister knows her politics well. “Mamata Banerjee has worked hard to build the Trinamool Congress. The party did not mushroom in a day. We are here for the long haul. Wait for the people’s mandate in 2021. I don’t have to say anything.”
This article was updated to reflect a correction.