As the BJP turns its gaze towards West Bengal, its government at the Centre plans to open a museum in Kolkata with a permanent exhibition on Syama Prasad Mookerjee, founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh which became the BJP a quarter century later.
Moves are afoot to compile and publish the works of Mookerjee within a year, and spread awareness of his Bengal connection which, sources said, will be crucial to the BJP strategy in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Officials of the Ministry of Culture said the proposed museum in Kolkata will have a permanent exhibition on Mookerjee. A letter he wrote to Rajendra Prasad, then President of the Constituent Assembly, expressing his “apprehensions” on possible attacks on Mahatma Gandhi — this was written a month before Gandhi’s assassination — will be one of the key exhibits at the museum, sources said.
The museum will also showcase files pertaining to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, declassified in 2016.
The Ministry of Culture has also created a task force which, with the help of the National Archives, will be compiling the collected works of Mookerjee — the collected works of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya were released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2016.
An official of the Ministry of Culture said the 184-year-old Currency Building — it overlooks Dalhousie Square in Kolkata and had housed the Reserve Bank of India until 1937 — is likely to be the site for the museum. The building is currently under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), also under the Ministry.
The BJP is already pointing to Mookerjee’s letter to Prasad. “The Congress has been using Gandhi for the longest time. But what did they do when this letter reached their government? Rajendra Prasad sent the letter to the Nehru government. The correspondence is there. Why didn’t they react and take precautions,” a senior BJP leader said.
A party leader from West Bengal said: “Even at the peak of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, Bengal did not react the way other states did. So, while we might be promoting Ram Navami in the state to show Hindu unity, it is also important to look at Bengali icons like S P Mookerjee and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee”.
The demand for the collected works of Mookerjee has been raised by the RSS. State RSS organisational secretary Bidyut Mukherjee told The Indian Express: “There would be no West Bengal without Syama Prasad Mookerjee. But somehow people, particularly the new generation, do not know about his contribution to the state and the country. We are working on different fronts, including the collected works, to change this.”
An official of the Ministry of Culture said: “The plan is to advertise to people, track relatives of Mookerjee who might have letters he wrote. Together with the letters in the archives, the idea is to have all his letters at one place. A task force has been created by the Ministry of Culture which, along with the National Archives, will work on this project.”