Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday invoked Rabindranath Tagore in her speech at a public meeting here in Birbhum district, and hit out at the BJP saying that the land of Tagore would never allow hate politics to triumph over secularism.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief attended a four-kilometre roadshow before addressing the rally in which she accused the saffron party of enabling communal politics at Visva-Bharati, which was founded by Tagore. She also targeted Visva-Bharati University (VBU) Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty, calling him a “BJP man”.
Alleging that the Opposition party had defamed both Santiniketan, the Bolpur neighbourhood where Visva-Bharati is located, and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Banerjee said, “Those who do not respect Mahatma Gandhi and other icons of the country are talking of building ‘Sonar Bangla [Golden Bengal]’. Rabindranath Tagore already created ‘Sonar Bangla’ several decades ago, all we need to do is to protect the place from the communal onslaught of the BJP.”
Last week, the VBU administration wrote to the state government, alleging that Amartya Sen was among the illegal occupants of land it owns. Sen has denied the allegations, and Banerjee has repeatedly defended the Nobel laureate, saying he is being targeted since he is ideologically opposed to the BJP.
“I feel bad when I see efforts are on to pursue communal politics at Visva-Bharati. The V-C there is a BJP man, he is trying to tarnish the heritage of this institution by
practising communal politics,” Banerjee alleged.
Reiterating that the BJP is a party of “outsiders”, she said, “The BJP is garbage of lies and believes in dangerous divisive politics. The outsider ‘goondas’ came to Bengal and they are trying to create a rift between us. They are blackmailing us in the name of agencies. I would like to tell them today, we will not bow our heads before those who killed Gandhi ji and insulted Rabindranath Tagore. Unfortunately, they have appointed a saffron-stamped Vice-Chancellor at Visva-Bharati. The BJP is trying to convert Visva-Bharati to a ‘danga [riots]’ place.”
Responding to Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s remarks during his visit to the state over a week ago that the BJP would win over 200 seats in next year’s state elections, Banerjee said the saffron party’s “Mission 200” would fall flat and it would not even win 30 of the 294 Assembly seats.
The chief minister slammed Shah and said, “One outsider is coming to Bengal as if he is Santa Claus or Vallabhbhai Patel. Staying at a five-star hotel and eating five-star food and talking about reforms of the poor. He is not only fooling people but also misleading in the name of Hinduism. These outsiders are creating chaos in the land of Tagore. They don’t even know where Rabindranath Tagore was born. They don’t even know the culture of Bengal. They only know hatred and divisive politics. Elections are coming and therefore these seasonal birds are coming to Bengal.”
The TMC chief warned villagers to be wary of outsiders trying to stoke tension and rob Bengal of its history and culture. “If you will see that these ‘bargis [plunderers]’ are roaming around your village then as early as possible inform the police and file a report against them,” she added.
The chief minister said the BJP was trying to create a “new Hindu dharma”. She added, “We all follow the Hindu principles and ideologies of Swami Vivekananda and Ram Krishna Paramhansa. But the BJP is trying to create a dangerous Hinduism trend in India. This is not only dangerous for our democracy but also devastating for our country. Now, they are dreaming of capturing our Bengal. Every day, leaders from other states are coming to Bengal to spread misinformation.”
Referring to a string of high-profile defections from her party to the BJP in recent weeks, Banerjee said, “You can buy a few MLAs, but you cannot buy the TMC. A few MLAs leaving the party will not matter, people are with us.”
Banerjee’s roadshow and rally were held over a week after a similar event attended by Amit Shah here. The roadshow started at Dak Bungalow More and concluded in the city’s Chowmatha More. The entire stretch was filled with large cut-outs of the chief minister and Rabindranath Tagore. The rally venue was dotted with placards containing lines from Tagore’s poems. More than 10 LCD screens were erected at important intersections to broadcast the TMC chief’s speech. Minister of State (MoS) Indranil Sen had reached Bolpur on December 27 to oversee the preparations for the roadshow. He also attended a rehearsal with artists who performed at the rally venue.
There were performances by Baul singers and kirtan artists, among others on Tuesday. “We are professional kirtania. We perform at such events and we get a good amount of money for that. Here, we came for the remuneration,” said kirtan artist Mardhan Hembram.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines