Kolkata: From investment banking with JP Morgan in New York to the corridors of Indian Parliament, Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra’s voyage to the doorstep of national politics is no less dramatic than her first appearance at the highest citadel of democracy. Moitra has arrived, and how. Her maiden fiery Lok Sabha speech on Tuesday, where she listed the “danger signs of early fascism in India”, won the hearts of millions and even secured attention of the international media.
Moitra began her speech by accepting the resounding mandate of the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then tore the dispensation apart by pointing out what she called the “seven danger signs of early fascism in this country”.
Moitra divided those signs under the following heads: “Lust to divide the country”, “permeating human rights disdain”, “control of mass media”, “creating an atmosphere of fear”, “citizenship issue”, “disdain for intellectuals and the arts”, and “erosion of independence of the electoral system”.
Her speech left the ruling MPs embarrassed, with members of the treasury bench trying to shout her down. An unfazed Moitra appealed to the Speaker to rein in the “professional hecklers”.
“Sir, there is no room for professional hecklers in the corridors of this great hall, I urge you to put the House in order,” she said.
Moitra’s maiden speech was direct, well researched and perfectly scripted, with all the elements rarely found in speeches made in the Parliament these days.
Moitra won the Krishnanagar Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections by defeating the BJP’s Kalyan Chaubey by a margin of 63,218 votes. She was earlier a member of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly from Karimpur in Nadia district.
Born on May 5, 1975, in Kolkata, Moitra moved to the United States with her family at the age of 15. She studied economics and mathematics at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and subsequently worked as an investment banker for JP Morgan in New York and London, eventually rising to the post of the company vice-president.
In 2008, her desire to do something for her country compelled Moitra to return. A year later, she joined the Congress and worked in Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Aam Admi Ka Sipahi (AAKS) project’. Two years later, she joined the TMC and is perceived to be very close to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The 44-year old politician lives in Kolkata and is an ardent yoga lover. Her disenchantment for social media has kept her off Facebook and Twitter.
Talking about her personality, a friend on condition of anonymity told News18, “She is passionate toward social service and extremely secular. That’s the reason she left her job in London and came back to Kolkata. She loves reading and is a bad a singer.”
Moitra courted controversy after she showed her middle finger in a debate show on national television in 2015. Two years later, she filed a defamation case against BJP leader Babul Supriyo for making an objectionable remark, ‘Mahua drunk on Mahua’ (Mahua is also used to refer to local hooch in Bengal) during a TV debate.
In August last year, Moitra was seen engaging in a scuffle with security personnel at the Silchar airport in Assam when a TMC delegation went to meet family members of those left out of the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The delegation was stopped by the Assam Police and sent back.
But her most sustained resistance to the Centre’s policies is her legal battle in the Supreme Court against the government’s social media monitoring and surveillance efforts regarding computers at homes and offices across the country. Currently, Moitra has three petitions pending in the court and has vowed to fight each of them till the end.