West Bengal Assembly Elections | Modi’s personal attacks on Mamata raise eyebrows

Repeated use of the mocking ‘Didi-O-Didi!’ by the PM has sparked a row on decorum

April 13, 2021 10:03 pm | Updated April 14, 2021 01:31 am IST - Kolkata

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee

A lot is at stake for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the West Bengal elections as is evident from the manner he has been repeatedly and personally attacking Trinamool Congress president and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The mocking tone which Mr Modi uses to address the Chief Minister, repeatedly saying “Didi-o-Didi!” has evoked a strong response not only from the Trinamool Congress but from the Chief Minster also.

“He is mocking me ( amake bhengache ). There should be a standard. I will not speak to him in this language,” Ms. Banerjee said on Monday at Basirhat.

The Chief Minister alleged that the “language brings shame even to youths chatting informally in a neighbourhood”, and said she cannot use the language which the Prime Minister has brought into West Bengal .

The first time people took note of the Prime Minister addressing the Chief Minister with the sing-song “Didi-O-Didi!” was at the BJP’s rally at the Brigade Parade Grounds on March 7. Thereafter at almost a dozen public rallies, Mr. Modi has used the mocking phrase to address the Trinamool chief. While these utterances drew a cheer for the Prime Minister, they also raised many eyebrows.

The Trinamool Congress leadership on April 4 held a press conference accusing the Prime Minister of “insulting women” of the State by addressing the Chief Minister in a “mocking tone”. Three women leaders of the party, including the State’s Women and Child Development Minister Sashi Panja, said the phrase used by the Prime Minister was anti-woman, akin to catcalling and harassment.

Perhaps in response to the criticism, the Prime Minister has of late added another phrase while speaking of the Chief Minister at his rallies. “Didi-o-Didi!”is now followed by “Adarniya Didi (Respected sister)” but in the same mocking tone at every public rally. Addressing a rally at Contai in Purba Medinipur, Mr Modi said Ms. Banerjee had to be called many times because she did not listen to anyone.

A number of women BJP leaders of the State, have defended the Prime Minister’s used of the phrase. MP Locket Chatterjee said the phrase, “Didi-O-Didi!” was a manner of showing respect to a woman in Bengal. Another BJP leader Agnimitra Paul said Ms. Banerjee is often heard using offensive language against Mr Modi calling him a “demon”.

“It is not that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee uses very polite words against her political opponents, but since the Prime Minister is the topmost elected executive in the country, he should refrain from using such language,” Professor of Political Science at Rabindra Bharati University Biswanath Chakraborty said.

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