It was intentional, claimed some in her party. Her opponents said it was “laughable”. But at the exact moment when Narendra Modi participated in the 350th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh in Patna, Mamata Banerjee delivered a speech on “communal harmony” at a similar event in Kolkata.
Narendra Modi had arrived in Patna, the birthplace of the 10th Sikh Guru, where at the historic Gandhi Maidan a replica of Takht Sri Harmandir Sahibji Gurdwara was built for the occasion. The bonhomie between Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and Modi was in stark contrast to time soon after note ban.
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Kumar and Mamata were “allies”, united in their opposition of Modi’s “dictatorial style of politics”. That changed when Kumar later supported the same move. An angry Mamata later called up her Bihar counterpart and their relationship has been strained since, said sources.
Mamata on Wednesday addressed a gathering of Sikhs in Kolkata and stressed on the intersections of brotherhood, unity and religion.
“Religion doesn’t mean violence. Religion means brotherhood, religion means unity. Religion does teach us peace,” she said.
She was also quick to bring the issue of demonetisation while speaking at the function. Although she didn’t attack Narendra Modi directly, she said, “When I was in Delhi, I saw poor people who were not able to buy food due to crunch of notes, visiting langarkhana during lunch time.”
A source close to Mamata Banerjee confirmed that the calibration of Mamata Banerjee’s speech to coincide with Narendra Modi’s appearance at Patna was done at the last minute.
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He added, “It is one thing for Modi to speak at a religious function. But in West Bengal and even in Bihar, he is still someone associated with religious intolerance. Those who suffered the most due to demonetisation were people from eastern India – states like Bihar and West Bengal, which are traditionally more cash reliant. It was a dual message, to Modi and Nitish.”