Mahua to Carla: There's always something about Marie News

Claim excess, especially from women politicians, and hark Marie Antoinette. A common villain, from India to US and Europe.

She was an ill-fated figure whose name has become synonymous with aristocratic profligacy and pitiless indifference towards people. In modern political discourse, Marie Antoinette, who was the queen of France before the French Revolution and is known for having been overthrown by revolutionaries and publicly guillotined in 1793 following the abolition of the monarchy, is used by the media and politicians across the world to paint women public figures — often, politicians themselves or high-profile politicians’ partners — as cold-hearted.

Antoinette recently found mention in Indian politics in the aftermath of Monday’s discussion on price rise in the Lok Sabha. As Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar rose to speak, her party colleague Mahua Moitra shifted her bag from the seat to the floor. The BJP noticed this, with party spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla claiming that “Marie Antoinette Mahua Moitra was hiding her expensive bag”.

The TMC MP responded in her inimitable style, citing the “jholewala fakir” remark that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made in 2016 to describe himself. Sharing a collage of her pictures holding bags, Moitra wrote the following day, “Jholewala fakir in Parliament since 2019. Jhola leke aye the … jhola leke chal padenge … (Came with a bag, will leave with it).”

Here is a look at a few instances when the name of the French queen, who was nicknamed Madame Deficit as she was blamed for the financial crisis France was going through, has been invoked to attack women public figures across the world:

Nirmala Sitharaman: Moitra is not the only Indian politician to have been referred to as Marie Antoinette. In 2019, when Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman came under attack during a discussion on rising price of onions, she said that her family “has little to do with onions”. Referring to it, Lok Sabha MP Karti Chidambaram of the Congress tweeted, “Our own Marie Antoinette.” Sitharaman’s office later issued a clarification, saying her comment was misconstrued and taken out of context.

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