Why this Kolaveri Didi?

Mamata grafitti on a wall

The Didi from Bengal has been famous for her rage. Especially in the last 3-4 years – the strikes, the bandhs, the dharnas which to an extent, were even celebrated and made Mamta Banerjee stand out as a firecracker brand. All this ultimately lead her to win a coveted CM crown and break the Left-rule jinx. As the opposition, it bode well for the public to have their voices represented, though to the erstwhile ruling party – CPI(M) she remained a persistent migraine; one that relapsed with the unpredictable alacrity and a painful reprimand that ‘all izz not well’. The positioning for Didi couldn’t have been better though, the only ‘right’ voice in the world of Left-ruled politics. As the upholder of the wronged, allowances were made for Didi being vociferous, emotional, cantankerous and stubborn.

Today, however the situation has changed. After several years of playing the plaintiff, Didi is the now the defendant. The first 200 days have been no doubt been stressful with mounting fiscal deficit, Maoist trouble at the state level, the FDI, the recent twin tragedies of AMRI fire and Hooch deaths and the very recent Lokayukta issue at the Centre. While the opposition has the liberty to indulge in child-like theatrics, the addressor necessitates maturity. Eyebrows are being raised at Mamta’s unnecessarily heavy-handed dictatorial approach culminating into an alarming regularity of losing her cool and control over situations. The irony is that the realisation is in a statement made by Mamta Banerjee herself- I’m not your Didi, I’m your CM.

Politics is all about walking the fine line, and most importantly – the image of a CM carries tremendous weight-age for investors. The present situation is tricky, on one hand, you have the business and economy of a cash strapped Bengal and on the other the outrage of the public on the combined callousness of businesses and administration which has earned Kolkata the highest place in the list of worst fire tragedies, almost taunting Ms. Banerjee, with her Ma, Mati, Manush promise.  A leader’s behavior is governed by the principle of grace under pressure. The AMRI fire has brought to light a whole new aspect of Mamta Banerjee’s personality, which may to an extent, be very populist – but definitely not progressive.

Here is a list of some imprudent responses:

1)      To the staff of AMRI on being asked about their future with the hospital shutdown: “You know me? I will slap you so hard you will go red”.

2)      To FICCI’s statement on the AMRI incident:  “I want industry but not killer industry. A murderer is a murderer. A terrorist is a terrorist. A Bengali is a Bengali. A Punjabi is a Punjabi. Terrorists don’t belong to any community”.

3)      On the hawker eviction issue: On being asked about the fate of the to-be-evicted hawkers , pat came the answer ‘chori koro’ (translation: ‘just steal’).

Naturally there has been outrage, from triggering mass resignations in various hospitals to the city’s business community feeling targeted and humiliated. In the context of the AMRI issue, Mr. Basistha Basu, Resident Editor, The Economic Times Kolkata aptly puts it “Language-wise a first maybe, for any CM…. But was it callousness, negligence or murder? Somehow, the ‘murder’ word is getting used very often, uttered even by the CM! Should Mamata be more judicious in her use of words? Perhaps yes, for, established medical facilities where thousands get treated everyday wouldn’t ‘murder’ in-patients. Defies business logic any which way.”

So why Didi, this Kolaveri  Di??

Loose talk and careless choice of words has been the undoing of many public personalities. We have seen it from the fate of Lalit Modi tweeting to disaster to Shahshi Tharoor’s “cattle class” derogation to Jairam Ramesh’s home ministry is “paranoid”, “alarmist” and “imagining demons”.

Here is what we would say to people making a statement to the press:

  • Remain calm and do not lose your temper. No matter how irate the press makes you.
  • Keep statements concise to reduce risk of misinterpretation.
  • While making a point support it with facts of credible proof, as evidence.
  • Correct misstatements before moving on to the next point.
  • If you’re not prepared, be honest and admit that you can’t answer a question just yet.
  • Buy time. Take time to think. The press isn’t going anywhere.

But most importantly, to make things simple – utilize the experts. Consult a PR professional.

Written by Jaini Mukerjee (Mehta) for Image Management

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