It is said that very few can handle power with grace. Former Tripura Chief Minister, Manik Sarkar executed his role as the CM of Tripura with elan and never drew attention to himself by speaking out of turn. The person who has stepped into his shoes, Biplab Deb of the BJP is a motor-mouth lacking in grace, decorum and statesmanship.
His public bluster evoke both anger and disgust. While we can rubbish his non-quotable quote that the internet was there right from the time of the Mahabharat which led to laughter more than outrage, his personal jibes on Diana Hayden, Miss World 1997 are pathetic. Deb made a reference to Diana’s complexion which no gentleman would do in public or in private but perhaps the new found power has gone to Deb’s head. This is the problem when people elect someone who is out of depth with the art and practice of politics and who is completely illiterate as far as gender sensitivities are concerned.
Deb was speaking at some public function when he pointed out that several beauty salons have sprung up in Agartala because women feel they need to look fair and lovely. He was probably hinting at the million dollar global cosmetics industries that have entered India, as this country is a huge market. But so have other products entered this country so why pick on cosmetics only? And don’t men also patronise some of the best perfumes and creams and lotions, if they can afford them? Does the BJP through its talking heads now want to dictate to us what women should and should not use? And now people like Deb are even defining what a classic Indian beauty is by using metaphors that are pejorative to large sections of Indian women who are not as fair and lovely as Aishwarya Rai Bacchan. There are limits to what a chief minister can say and get away with. What was galling were the squeaks of giggles each time Deb spoke and shamed Diana Hayden who he felt did not deserve the title of Miss World.
Tripura has several areas that need immediate attention. One is the high unemployment rate. Deb should know (in case he doesn’t) that the beauty industry is a job creator too and the women who work in beauty salons are in a profession that pays and they are not just whiling away their time listening to his incoherent claptrap. But such remarks are now the hallmark of Deb’s party which has been trying to circumscribe what we should rest our faiths on and which is derogatory about science and its contributions to human civilisation.
Every other day a BJP MLA or MP gets away with uncouth, misogynistic remarks. They have a view on every issue that is so steeped in patriarchy and misogyny that it feels awful to have these comments on television. These elected representatives are doing it for sensationalism and just to be in the news, so Deb is simply following in their footsteps. Diana Hayden has been magnanimous in her reaction and after a public outcry, the Tripura CM has apologized but the damage is done. Here is yet another elected representative who does not know when to say what and seems to put his foot in his mouth each time he makes a public speech.
During Ram Navami, Biplab Deb was seen dancing with a crowd. His act was video-graphed and went viral. Some days ago he was again video-graphed while singing. He seems to have made a fetish of winning cheap publicity. Is Biplab Deb underworked? Does any CM of any of the seven states have time for such trivia? They don’t even have time to breathe because of the workload. And if the BJP says that the Communist Government has not done much during its tenure then there is all the more reason for the BJP led government to dig in its heels and start performing. Or will the new Government start by pulling the shutters down on beauty salons and cosmetics stores simply because they are not “desi” enough? Or is this a ploy to bring in Patanjali cosmetics to Tripura since this Baba Ramdev brand is now producing everything from ghee to anti-wrinkle creams to sunscreens and what have you?
Clearly Mr Biplab Deb needs to set his priorities and get on with his work as the chief minister of Tripura and stop being a critic of beauty pageants and those who qualify to be the Miss Worlds and Miss Universe’s of the world..
(The writer is a renowned columnist and journalist from Meghalaya. She can be reached at email@example.com)