Mahua Moitra speaks the language of today’s youth, which is why videos of her speeches are watched by perhaps the most apolitical people of India. Who wouldn’t want to see a spark of brilliance sitting among half-asleep politicians in our Parliament? Lok Sabha TV seems to go from low definition TV to Ultra HD with her energy bursting onto our screens, demanding people to think about the true meaning of democracy, about the voices being muzzled through arrests, cowardice of false bravados and authority, the making of propaganda into a ‘cottage industry’ and the brazen audacity of celebrating an economy where only the rich are getting richer.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP from Krishnanagar Mahua Moitra boldly spoke truth to power last week in a House full of masked men. Only someone like her could have the guts to bring up the topic of sexual harassment in Parliament, causing outrage among some of her male colleagues who moved a breach of privilege motion against her days later. Moitra is back in the news for yet another scathing speech in Parliament in which she spoke about the case of alleged sexual harassment by an ex-Chief Justice of India and now Rajya Sabha member from 2019 (without naming him in her speech). Her remarks were later expunged. Back then, one of the CJI’s employees had written to the Supreme Court about her ordeal and alleged sexual harassment. The special hearing of the case was amusingly heard by the CJI himself, which broke the cardinal rule of natural justice — something that Moitra categorically pointed out in her speech. Eventually, after much uproar, the case was dismissed by another Supreme Court panel and no one bothered to speak of it again. But Moitra did. And her speech has gone viral.
A leader to watch out for
Mahua Moitra always ends up hitting the right chords through her speeches because she ends up saying things so many of us would perhaps not have the guts to say, or things that have been buried under the churn of constant news and the many ridiculous things there are to outrage over these days. But Moitra remembered what’s truly significant. Seen in the context of journalist Priya Ramani winning the defamation case against her by former Union Minister MJ Akbar, Moitra’s speech about the unnamed woman’s case of alleged sexual harassment by the former CJI seems to continue the befitting theme of “speaking truth to power”. But then that’s what Moitra has always been like since she arrived in politics.
An investment banker in JP Morgan, she came from London to Delhi and started her journey into politics with the Indian National Congress, which, true to its nature, did not see her brilliance or potential. During her speech last week, the entire house sat in pin-drop silence, captivated by Moitra’s every word, with alert eyes seen on faces plastered with masks. Amongst this spellbound crowd sat Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Adhir Ranjan Choudhary who listened to her intently. Moitra had played a pivotal role in Rahul Gandhi’s project ‘Aam Admi Ka Sipahi’ in 2010, but her talent was wasted with Indian Youth Congress.
Congress’ loss, TMC’s gain
After a brief stint with Congress, Moitra then shifted to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) where West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee not only saw her potential but honed it fast enough to offer her a ticket from Karimpur in the 2016 West Bengal assembly election, receiving much criticism from party workers because they thought Moitra was too “urbane”. But Mahua took on the challenge, rented a house in Karimpur, worked her way on-ground, and won the election. Banerjee then gave her a Lok Sabha ticket in 2019 to fight from Krishnanagar, which Moitra won again against her rival Kalyan Chaubey from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by more than 60,000 votes.
While Mamata Banerjee is feisty and earthy, Mahua Moitra is perhaps the urban-version of Didi who speaks Americanised English, shows the finger to an anchor on national television, and doesn’t shy away from using the word ‘fascism’, much to the displeasure of the Narendra Modi government. And in all of this, she remains unapologetic and fearless while never mincing her words.
She also brought up the ‘Goswamis’ of journalism — perhaps one of the most ailing pillars of India’s democracy — while looking up at Parliament balcony to the media, imploring them to find their conscience from the depths of fake reporting and absence of journalistic ethics.
The female politician we need
Many have given impassioned speeches in Parliament on similar topics. But what is unique to Mahua Moitra is that given the current Parliament’s gender demographics, she is perhaps the only woman in the opposition who speaks so fiercely against the Modi government and its policies. In an opposition heavily dominated by men, Mahua Moitra is the woman who stands out and, in fact, overshadows them all with her oratory skills. This is why bringing up the former CJI’s case of alleged sexual misconduct only drives the point home that our Parliament needs more female leaders.
Mahua Moitra also stands out because she hasn’t reduced herself to only representing the state politics of Bengal. She speaks of issues that are ailing the country as a whole, be it farm laws and crony capitalism to fascism. A very significant aspect of a parliamentarian is to lead the country by endorsing thoughts and ideas that make a nation progress. Mahua Moitra’s speeches are not just belting out thoughts on an exemplary nation with exemplary ideals. She keeps it real. Tells the issues as they are. And forces her listeners to be embarrassed to not see the obvious rot in the system.
The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.