Mahua Moitra | Outspoken parliamentarian

Mahua Moitra also quipped that the recommendation of the Ethics Committee will only help her double the margin of victory in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in 2024

November 26, 2023 12:37 am | Updated January 03, 2024 05:27 pm IST

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra

Two weeks after the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha recommended suspension of Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, party chairperson and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on November 23, broke her silence on the issue, saying the BJP’s attempts to expel Ms. Moitra will only make her more popular. Ms. Moitra also quipped that the recommendation of the Ethics Committee will only help her double the margin of victory in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in 2024.

With her pointed remarks and political derring-do, Ms. Moitra caught the popular imagination from the time she took the plunge into politics in 2009 after leaving a cushy job at JPMorgan Chase in London. Among the youth Congress leaders who were picked by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for the ‘Aam Admi Ka Sipahi’ campaign almost 14 years ago, she is someone who has garnered the most attention from the media.

Also read: Mahua Moitra expulsion | Supreme Court seeks Lok Sabha Secretary General’s reply on TMC leader’s plea

Hailing from a family of politicians — her grandmother Ila PalChowdhury was an MP from Nabadwip and later Krishnanagar constituency in the State’s Nadia district — the Moitras have had a significant influence in the Krishnanagar region. Besides, they also have significant land holdings and investments in a factory in the region. Born in 1974 in Assam’s Cachar district, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Mathematics from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, U.S. After a brief stint with the Congress Party, Ms. Moitra joined the Trinamool Congress. She had a rather slow start with West Bengal’s ruling party, which initially assigned her responsibilities in Murshidabad district. It was in its second term in 2016 that the Trinamool decided to field her from Karimpur, a constituency in Nadia bordering Murshidabad district. She won the Assembly polls by a margin of over 15,000 votes.

Uneventful beginning

As an MLA from 2016-2019, Ms. Moitra had a rather uneventful tenure. Her speeches in the State Assembly in Bengali on the State’s budgetary allocations and economy did not generate the enthusiasm which her speeches in Parliament have. When the Trinamool nominated her to contest from Krishnanagar Lok Sabha seat, she faced stiff competition from the BJP’s Kalyan Chaubeythe footballer-turned-politician. Ms. Moitra did not rely only on the party’s machinery but came up with her own team, years before political consultants like I-PAC made entry into West Bengal politics. She won the seat by a margin of 63,218 votes.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Trinamool put its faith in a number of novices, candidates who were contesting the Lok Sabha polls for the first time. While the party’s well-oiled machinery saw popular names from the Bengali film industry like Nushrat Jahan and Mimi Chakraborty get elected to the Lok Sabha, Ms. Moitra created a name for herself with fiery speeches in Parliament.

Her maiden speech where she targeted the BJP government highlighting the ‘seven signs of fascism’ caught the attention of the country. As a first time parliamentarian, her interventions in the Lok Sabha have been well-researched, to the point and laced with scathing criticism of the ruling dispensation.

While Ms. Moitra’s speeches created a niche for her in the Opposition circles, she has not been a stranger to controversy. Her remarks on Kali, describing the goddess as a meat-consuming, alcohol loving deity, led to an FIR against her in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh. In September 2022, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee publicly admonished her, asking her not to meddle with the party’s organisational affairs. She also ruffled the feathers of the media by calling mediapersons in her constituency, ‘two paisa press’.

Ms. Moitra is also not a quintessential Trinamool politician who begins every statement and speech by expressing gratitude to the party chairperson. She has largely kept herself away from the factionalism of the party as far as affairs of her Lok Sabha constituency is concerned. In her first term as Lok Sabha MP, she had created a social media presence and an acceptance across Opposition parties. Even as the Trinamool leadership was mulling over prospects of the Adani Group’s investments in the State, she spared no opportunity to target the conglomerate on the allegations of stock manipulation and accounting fraud.

Even before she was elected to the Lok Sabha, Ms. Moitra was among the first to challenge in a court of law the BJP government’s move to float a tender to set up a social media communication hub for monitoring online data.

In the face of relentless criticism by the BJP leadership in the allegations of ‘cash for query’ that was looked into by the Ethics Committee, she has remained unapologetic and defiant, not budging an inch from the stand she has taken. The 49 -year-old MP has lashed out at attempts to tarnish her reputation by targeting her personal life, leaking her photographs in the public domain.

The Trinamool Congress leadership has been clearly struggling with how to take a stand on the issue, and has spoken in several voices. Initially, it said that Ms. Moitra was “competent enough to fight her own battle”; then it put its weight behind her by assigning her key organisational responsibility. The party leadership has reconciled to the fact that she remains ‘popular’ as leaders across Opposition parties have come out in her support in the ‘cash for query’ allegations.

While the recommendations of the Ethics Committee may be taken up in the upcoming Winter Session of Parliament starting December 4, Ms. Moitra’s future depends on how she can balance her personal ambition and growing stature within the populist politics of the Trinamool Congress.

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