Mamata and her men stoke controversies as rivals 'hiss'

Kolkata, Jan 26 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has a penchant for courting controversies, effortlessly stirred yet another when she wondered at a public meeting whether she should beat up the prime minister for getting her demands met.

As the Trinamool Congress supremo came under intense criticism for her remarks, she found an able comrade in ministerial peer Jyotipriya Mallick - now famous for bizarre prescriptions - who this time dished out a "venomous" decree.

The week began on a stormy note when Banerjee, while venting her ire on the Congress- led central government said: "What else can I do? Shall I go beat him up? Then people will call me a goon. But I don't care. I can go to the very last mile for the people."

She made the remarks at Canning in South 24 Parganas while stating that her repeated meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yielded no result on her demand to lower fertilizer prices.

He remarks gave the opposition - the Congress and the CPI-M led Left Front - the much needed fodder as they went ballistic in slamming her, with some of the leaders even questioning her mental health.

"If one goes by what she claims, she works 22 hours a day. It is not possible for anyone to keep their mental balance having worked 22 hours each day," Communist Party of India -Marxist politburo member Surjya Kanta Mishra said.

Not amazed by the remarks, the Congress attributed them to Banerjee's "sick mindset", besides demanding an apology.

"This makes it very clear that this state government is not a civilised one. The chief minister of a civilised government cannot make such a remark," state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said.

Perhaps finding herself cornered by the growing criticisms, Banerjee put the blame on the media - now her bunny besides the opposition - claiming her comments were "concocted to suit vested interests".

Banerjee now has been perpetually at war with a section of media, not letting go of any opportunity to slam it.

But even before the storm over Banerjee's comments could settle, state Food and Supplies Minister Jyotipriya Mallick raised another when he took the attacks on his rivals to a personal level, earning their wrath as well as a potential defamation suit against him.

Mallick, in his hate speech, not only likened CPI-M supporters to a "cobra deserving a treatment befitting a venomous snake" but also made personal remarks against the Congress' three union ministers from Bengal - Deepa Dasmunshi, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury.

"He (Mullick) made vulgar comments at me and my family. I'm consulting a lawyer so that I can take action against him," Abu Choudhury said, adding: "It is the worst government running in this state where opposition leaders have no honour."

Neither was it the first time that Mallick has called for ostracising the CPI-M, nor is he the only one making such a call.

Mallick has repeatedly asked his party followers not only to resist marrying CPI-M workers and supporters but also advised them against see their rivals' faces as this would be a bad omen and may even lead to their death.

In fact, Mallick had taken the cue from his fellow party leader and parliamentarian from East Midnapore Subhendu Adhikary, who had asked people to keep the poisonous snakes (read CPI-M) out of the district till the panchayat polls.

Another leader to join this bandwagon is Transport Minister Madan Mitra had some advice for his political adversaries: "People are waiting for you with brooms and sticks. Better stay indoors."

Reacting to the remarks, Marxist leader Mohammad Salim said: "The comments are symptomatic of the politicalisation of the criminal, rather than the criminalisation of politics which the Trinamool is responsible for."

With the rural polls in the state drawing near, some feel the ongoing political brickbatting is only a prologue to what is in the offing.

(Anurag Dey can be contacted at deyvil@gmail.com)

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