At least two senior leaders raised doubts over Mamata’s ‘mental health’

There were strong reactions from across the political spectrum here on Tuesday over a remark made by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and her subsequent clarifications, which only served to raise further questions about her way of functioning.

Speaking at a function at Canning in the State’s South 24 Parganas district on Monday, Ms. Banerjee had questioned whether she was expected to “beat up” Dr. Singh. But a day later, she sought to clarify that she had not said she would beat him up and blamed the media for misreporting her remarks.

While the use of such language by the Chief Minister against the Prime Minister was universally condemned, at least two senior leaders questioned the “mental health” of Ms. Banerjee.

Stating there was “a substantial difference” between what Ms. Banerjee had said and what she claims to have said, Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly Surya Kanta Mishra said “her problem lies elsewhere”.

“If one goes by what she claims, she works 22 hours a day and one doubts if she is able to sleep for two hours [in a day]. In such a situation, her health is a matter of grave concern to us. It is not possible for anyone to keep their mental balance having worked 22 hours each day,” said Dr. Mishra, who is also member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Dr. Mishra said he had hoped that Ms. Banerjee would make “a more apologetic statement”.

West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee president Pradip Bhattacharya said Ms. Banerjee’s utterances were an example of a “sick mindset” as in no other State has a Chief Minister made such a remark against the Prime Minister.

“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,” Mr. Bhattacharya said.

Bharatiya Janata Party State unit president Rahul Sinha also questioned the “low levels” to which Ms. Banerjee was dragging down politics in the State.

“That a Chief Minister speaks of beating a Prime Minister shows how uncivilised the language of politics [has become] and how low she is dragging the political system. If the Chief Minister does not realise this, then it is really unfortunate,” Mr. Sinha said.

“As the Chief Minister of a State, she should not have used such language against the Prime Minister…Now that she has done it, she needs a scapegoat. Who will be her scapegoat? The media,” said senior Congress leader and the Minister of State for Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

Mr. Chowdhury said everyone had seen what Ms. Banerjee had to say and she should either stick by it or apologise. “There is no middle ground,” he said.

Senior CPI(M) leader Mohd. Salim also criticised Ms. Banerjee for accusing the “messenger” instead of apologising for the language she used.