The organisers claimed the similarity was “coincidental” but maintained that Gandhi needs to be criticised for his role in the freedom movement. The act drew flak from all political parties – the ruling Trinamool Congress in the state, and the Opposition parties including Bharatiya Janata Party, CPI-M and Congress.
When contacted, Chandrachur Goswami, working President of West Bengal state unit of All India Hindu Mahasabha, told The Indian Express, “A person with a bald head and wearing spectacles need not be Gandhi. See the asura is also holding a dhal (shield). Gandhi never held a dhal. It is coincidental that our asura whom Maa Durga is killing, looks like Gandhi. Many people said it looks like Gandhi. However, it is also true that Gandhi needs to be criticised.”
Terming it as the “height of indecency”, Trinamool Congress state General Secretary Kunal Ghosh, said, “This is the real face of BJP. The rest of what they do is drama. Mahatma Gandhi is the father of the nation. The world respects Gandhi and his ideology. Such an insult to Mahatma Gandhi cannot be accepted. We protest strongly.”
“This is the BJP and this is the Sangh Parivar. They only know how to divide the nation. They consider anti-British forces as ‘asura’ and British (colonial British during pre-independence period) as Maa Durga,” said Samik Lahiri, Member, CPI-M Central Committee.
BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, “We do not support such things. Such things are absolutely unacceptable and the administration should take immediate steps against the organisers.”
Congress spokesperson Soumya Aich Roy said, “Rabindranath Tagore termed Gandhi as ‘mahatma’ (great soul). Insult of such a great man is a shame not only to India but also to the whole world.”
All India Hindu Mahasabha’s Chandrachur, however, said Gandhi has not been properly evaluated. “He needs to be criticised for his role in the national freedom movement. Our real heroes are Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh. We do not fear to criticise Gandhi. Someone has to bell the cat. He does not derive respect. We want to send a clear message to all that we want Gandhi-mukt Bharatvarsh. We ask why is the Central government not making the book ‘Why I killed Gandhi’ by Nathuram Godse, public,” he said.
When asked if the administration and the police have intervened in the Puja, Goswami said, “We are organising the Durga Puja with police permission. So far, no one has intervened.” According to the organisers, the Puja is being held under the banner of All India Hindu Mahasabha and has a theme of ‘women empowerment’, with women purohit performing the puja.