Kolkata: A packed hall, eminent personalities from various walks of life, and a candid Mamata Banerjee. For the first time, the Trinamool Congress hosted a meet-and-greet event for the West Bengal Chief Minister in Mumbai, where she is on a two-day visit.
The guest list at the Wednesday event included activists, journalists, painters, actors, film-makers, and authors. Among them was actor Swara Bhasker, who was praised by Mamata Banerjee for being a “tough and strong lady”.
Swara, standing among the audience members, spoke for 4 minutes at the event, addressing Mamata, who was seated on the dais. She began by thanking Mamata in Bengali for defeating the BJP with her battle cry “khela hobe (let’s play)”.
But before she posed her question to the TMC chief, she sought to introduce some of her colleagues who were present at the event. These included comedian Munawar Faruqui, who was jailed earlier this year for allegedly hurting Hindu sentiments with his jokes and has since been forced to cancel shows amid “threats of vandalism”.
Introducing Munawar, she said: “They have risked their careers, their livelihood to keep resistance alive.”
Mamata Banerjee keenly listened to Swara, then asked, “Why don’t you join politics?” The audience applauded in support. “You’re a tough and strong lady,” she added.
Speaking to ThePrint later, Bhasker said it was “gracious of her (Mamata) to compliment me”. “My question to her was about the misuse of draconian laws, especially the UAPA, and I was glad to hear her assure everyone that she will not stand for the misuse of that law,” she added.
At the event, Mamata also broke her silence and came out in open support of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, the brand ambassador of West Bengal whose son was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in October for alleged drug-related charges.
Aryan Khan and his two fellow accused were released on bail nearly a month later, after the Bombay High Court said there was “ hardly any positive evidence on record to convince this court that all the accused persons with common intention agreed to commit unlawful acts”.
Said Mamata: “Shah Rukh has been victimised.”
Shah Rukh Khan, who co-owns the IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders, flies down to Bengal each year in December to be part of the Kolkata International Film Festival, where Mamata acknowledges him as her brother. She also sends him a rakhi each year.
Before leaving for Mumbai, Mamata had confirmed to the media that she won’t be meeting Shah Rukh Khan as is busy with his shoot schedule.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)