New Delhi: Trinamool Congress MPs Nusrat Jahan and Mimi Chakraborty have defended West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for taking action against people chanting “Jai Shri Ram” in Bhatpara, saying the sloganeering was meant to incite passions.
“Aap ‘Jai Shri Ram’ gale mil kar bolo, na ki gale daba kar bolo (chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ while embracing people, not while throttling them),” said Jahan, addressing an audience question at ThePrint Off The Cuff in New Delhi Saturday.
“Mandir baad mein bana lena, masjid baad mein bana lena, jo tootey huey ghar aur dil hain unko pehle bana lena chahiye (temples and mosques can be built later, first build the broken houses and hearts),” Jahan added.
Jahan and Chakraborty, both actors who have made their debut as parliamentarians in the 17th Lok Sabha, were in conversation with ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta and principal correspondent Sanya Dhingra.
As the packed house was opened to questions, the duo was asked multiple questions about the violence that West Bengal is often in news for. The two, however, insisted “West Bengal is not burning”, adding that minor incidents were being portrayed as something bigger.
“Such things keep happening everywhere,” said Chakraborty.
‘Didi: The fighter with a heart of gold’
Jahan and Chakraborty gushed with praise for Banerjee when asked how she “popped the question” to them and invited them into active politics.
Chakraborty said Banerjee had first thrown a hint her way during a state government awards function, while Jahan recalled how she had initially mistaken Banerjee’s proposal for an invitation to campaign for the party.
“One day, Didi said, ‘this time you have to work for the party’”, Jahan said. “We thought she means we should campaign for TMC leaders, as we have in the past…”
“We are on,” Jahan said she had told Didi at the time.
Both claimed that they were caught off-guard when their names were read out on television as the Trinamool Congress announced its candidates, before adding that they felt overwhelmed by the faith Banerjee had placed in them.
“Didi is a fighter, she rose from the ground,” Jahan said.
Chakraborty added that Banerjee wasn’t a diplomatic person and said things as they are. “She’s not a hypocrite…she’s a person with a heart of gold,” she said.
When an audience member asked Jahan if she felt she’d been made her party’s “Muslim face”, she said “many Hindus also voted for me”.
Work & politics
While discussing their plans for their respective constituencies, Chakraborty said she’d like to focus on women’s health and sanitation, while Jahan stated that she’d want to work to detach the word “sensitive” from her seat (Basirhat), which has come to be associated with communal tensions.
Asked her opinion on the Triple Talaq Bill, Jahan said while she supported its thrust on women empowerment, she didn’t subscribe to the criminalisation aspect.
A lot of the questions to the two focused on the ‘glamour’ they bring to Parliament, with one audience member asking if it could serve as an impediment in their political careers.
To this, Chakraborty replied, “People connect with our hearts, not with our faces.”
“I work for my people, whether it is in films or politics.” Chakraborty added.
A longstanding friendship
Jahan and Chakraborty were also asked about the friendship the two share, and whether it was a deliberate strategy to make public appearances together.
“We have been friends since our acting days… We have shared the limelight since then. We are so glad we are together here as well,” Jahan replied.
With palpable camaraderie between them, Jahan and Chakraborty said people seek out familiar faces when they go to a new place, and that is what they were doing as well.