Calcutta, Feb. 6: Mamata Banerjee told her security guards they "should be whipped" as she walked a few paces and waited for her car at the Calcutta Book Fair gates this evening.
"Chabkano uchit apnader (you should be whipped)," she was heard screaming at K.K. Dwivedi, the special branch officer most often seen walking next to her.
The chief minister had entered the fair venue through a gate behind ITC Sonar and come out through another in front of Science City. Probably because of the sudden change of plan, the police were apparently taken off guard and took time to call for her car.
As the chief minister waited, some of her admirers thrust autograph books at her. She walked a few steps, mumbling something all the while. Then she stopped, turned around and screamed at the cop.
Police sources said even officers who had worked closely with her over the years were shocked by the outburst.
What Mamata balked at tonight is something tens of thousands of book fair visitors have to bear. Because of poor arrangements at the venue, they have to walk several kilometres to a point from where they can board public transport vehicles. (See Metro)
"The car took time to come because there was a huge rush at the exit around the time the fair ends and it got stuck on the way," a police officer said.
Dwivedi, the officer who got the tongue-lashing, has been with Mamata for several years and was awarded a Seva Medal in December. People who know the officer said he would lay his life on the line to protect the person assigned to him.
"He knows us well. But he will still shove us away if we get very close to the leader and say 'sorry yaar', later," said a reporter who has trailed the chief minister.
Mamata's security detail includes around 12 special branch officers led by Dwivedi.
"She would earlier chide us for not having food or for straining ourselves, but today she abused us," a cop said.
The shock is all the more because she had always defended the policemen closest to her. Mamata is known to have scolded police or party people for blocking her out from people but no one could recall an instance where she had chided security personnel over personal inconvenience.
In October 2011, while on her way back from an administrative meeting in North 24-Parganas' Barasat, Mamata had lost her cool when an elderly woman rushed up to her. Later, Mamata complained that she had lost a bangle and her watch in the commotion. Security arrangements were tightened after the incident and people were kept at a distance. "No cop was hauled up even then," an officer said.
Last Saturday, while unveiling foundation stones at a government programme held at Hooghly's Dadpur, Mamata became upset when the remote control did not operate smoothly.
She went towards the curtain and started pulling it, angry with the administrative officials, but there wasn't an outburst.
One thing had changed between that Saturday and this Wednesday. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee asked a question her government has not yet answered: "Where will the kids go…? They will have to run to Bangalore again."