West Bengal: How India’s only female state leader is under threat from the Modi election machine

In India’s first state polls since the start of bruising nationwide farmer protests, a loss for Mamata Banerjee would leave the country without a single female chief minister, as Mayank Aggarwal reports

Saturday 27 March 2021 17:30
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<p>Chief minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee in a wheelchair along with other party leaders in a political rally in Kolkata a couple of days after an alleged attack on her</p>

Chief minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee in a wheelchair along with other party leaders in a political rally in Kolkata a couple of days after an alleged attack on her

She is one of the most powerful women in India – so when Mamata Banerjee announced that she had been attacked by a group of men, breaking a bone in her leg on the campaign trail, it sent shockwaves across India.

The only place where the attack was dismissed was in West Bengal itself, where Banerjee is standing for re-election as chief minister in a crucial state poll that began on Saturday. There, the local leader of the Hindu nationalist BJP joked that Banerjee should wear Bermuda shorts to show off her injured leg since “people don’t want to see her face”.

West Bengal is one of five states and territories going to the polls in the coming weeks, but it is seen as particularly important for the advancement of women’s representation in Indian politics, in a country where men dominate the levers of power and where such sexist comments are standard campaign fare.

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