CHIEF MINISTER Mamata Banerjee’s linguistic choices are rarely accidental. She speaks Nepali in Darjeeling and tries out Santhal in Midnapore. So when she began translating her Twitter feed into Hindi, apart from the usual English, party leaders admitted that the decision was “conscious, a signal of intent”.
After cementing her position in West Bengal, Banerjee plans to increase her national profile. And, after her recent rally at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, she is preparing to address rallies in Lucknow and Patna next week to campaign nationally against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his government’s demonetisation policy.
Ahead of that, TMC sources said, Banerjee is looking for a Hindi teacher and has purchased a Bengali-Hindi dictionary, too.
WATCH VIDEO: Here’s How PM Narendra Modi Hit Out At His Critics Questioning Demonetisation
Banerjee acknowledged that as a politician who began her career as a parliamentarian in Delhi, her spoken Hindi has become “rusty”. “I was in Delhi from 1984. First, as a parliamentarian and then as a member of the Union Cabinet. I spoke in Hindi then. But over the years, particularly after 2011, my Hindi has become rusty with lack of practice,” she told The Indian Express.
According to a close aide, Banerjee’s politics is about “instinct”. “Take for instance, Modi expressing sorrow that people standing in queues were suffering. She immediately felt that this was an instance of ‘rubbing salt into wounds’. But she had to ask someone what the exact translation of the phrase was in Hindi before making a statement,” said the aide.
Banerjee, the aide said, is also working on a book of poetry in Hindi. Her party, meanwhile, is likely to publicise once again a biography of the Chief Minister in Hindi titled “Meri Sangharshpurnyatra”, which was first published in 2013. Party leaders like Vivek Gupta, TMC MP and editor of the Hindi daily ‘Sanmarg’, are also contributing to Mamata’s speeches, said sources.
On November 16, Banerjee put out her first Tweet in Hindi, announcing her joint rally at Azadpur Mandi in the national capital alongside her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal. Four days later, she hit out at Modi in a series of tweets, first in Hindi followed by translations in English.
“Pradhan mantri ji, aap har virodhi ko bhrashtachari kahte hai. Aap kya jadugar hai. Janta ki awaz suniye. Unki takleef ko samjhiye. Janta is takleef ko bhula nahi sakti. Janta ki takleef ko mazak mat samjhiye. Aap ki policy se janta ko takleef kyun hoga, rahat honi chahiye. Har state ki, pure desh ki economy tahas nahas ho rahi hai. Janta dukh mein aur aap khushi mana rahe hai (PM, you are equating all opposition with corruption. Are you a magician? Listen to the voice of the people. Understand their discomfort. People will not be able to forget this.
Your policy shouldn’t bring discomfort to people, but comfort. Every state and the country’s economy has been destroyed. People are unhappy and you’re celebrating).”
Party leaders and those close to Banerjee said the tweets not only marked a departure — she had been accused of criticising the BJP while maintaining a ‘strategic distance’ on Modi — but also made it clear that she was now looking to increase her national reach.
After returning to Kolkata from Delhi, Banerjee held a series of meetings with state officials to assess the impact of demonetisation while simultaneously ensuring that her rallying cry against Modi would be picked up by leaders across the political spectrum, said sources.
“One of the problems faced by Mamata is that she has the reputation of being mercurial and unpredictable. This is a problem when you’re trying to bring the opposition together,” said the aide.
TMC sources said that Kejriwal had expressed concern over sharing the demonetisation protest space with the Congress, the AAP’s prime opposition in Punjab and Delhi. And others had expressed similar ideological and political problems with sharing space with Shiv Sena.
Banerjee, though, has remained constant in her stand against what she described as “a black decision of a black government”.
“I don’t have any ego issues on this. I am reacting because common people have been inconvenienced… farmers and the middle class. Not just for Bengal, we need to campaign for the entire country. I will do what I can, but I hope all opposition parties will unite against the Modi government. I hope there will be opposition solidarity for the masses of our country,” she said.