January 25, 2021 4:29:24 am
The war of words between the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the BJP continued on Sunday over Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to speak at an event organised at the Victoria Memorial on Saturday to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Banerjee refused to address the event after “Jai Shri Ram” slogans were raised in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Sunday, TMC workers held protests against the perceived slight to Banerjee even as the Left and the Congress came out in Banerjee’s support. TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, the chief minister’s nephew, said it was a deliberate attempt by the BJP to not allow Mamata Banerjee to speak at the event.
“Yesterday, the chief minister elected by 2.5 crore people in the state was humiliated. Good sense has not prevailed among those who had vandalised the statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in Kolkata in 2019. I would appeal to the people to give a befitting reply to people like these who insult Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his birth anniversary. Again, attempts are being made to tarnish the image of Bengal with religious politics,” the Diamond Harbour MP said at a public meeting in Kultali in South 24 Parganas district.
At Saturday’s event, upset with the sloganeering, Mamata Banerjee told the gathering, “I feel a government programme should have some dignity. This is a government programme, not the programme of a political party…This is a public programme. I thank the Prime Minister and the Culture Ministry for organising the programme in Kolkata. But it doesn’t behove you to humiliate a person after extending an invitation.”
Condemning the incident, TMC MP Mahua Moitra tweeted, “Never have I been prouder to be part of Mamata di’s team. In an ocean of monkeys, she stands out as the lone lioness. Nation Needs to Know: How come when Great Lord & Protector Shri Modi was speaking at Netaji event none of his fans hailed him with Jai Shri Ram? How come the heckle cry was only raised when CM Mamata di spoke? Jai Shri Constitution.”
She added, “Jai Shri Ram at [an] official event to celebrate Netaji’s 125th? Jai Shri Ram in Parliament? Either we stand up to this bigoted bulldozing where religion = government or India perishes.”
Senior TMC leader and state minister Firhad Hakim said, “BJP has turned a government programme into a joke. Will it look good If Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes to an event and we engage in sloganeering. This is an insult to Lord Ram as well as his name has been politicised. Yesterday was the day to chant ‘Jai Hind’, not ‘Jai Shri Ram’.”
Responding to Banerjee’s decision to not address the event and the TMC’s criticism, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya claimed the chief minister tried to appease the state’s 30 per cent Muslim population by opposing the “Jai Shri Ram” slogan.
“Jai Shri Ram slogan is raised to welcome guests. When the Prime Minister arrived [at the event], the slogan was raised. The same was done when Mamata Banerjee arrived. What is there in this slogan that Mamata Banerjee felt insulted? Why does she feel insulted to hear ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogans? This is very unfortunate and she has done keeping a political agenda in mind. She has done it to appease 30 per cent [Muslim] population of the state. This state government is for 30 per cent population while 70 per cent population is neglected. In the state Assembly polls, this 70 per cent population will give a befitting reply to Mamata Banerjee,” he added.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh admitted that his party was trying to claim Netaji’s legacy and doing politics over it. “Mamata Banerjee had nothing to say and that’s why she didn’t say anything. Those who consider ‘Jai Shri Ram’ a slang should refrain from politics. I have never reacted when black flags were shown to me and ‘go back’ slogans were raised. Mamata Banerjee deserved this as she had sent people to jail for chanting this slogan. Of course, we will do politics over Netaji’s legacy. He was a political leader so we will 100 per cent indulge in politics over his name. If TMC has guts then stop us,” he added.
Meanwhile, former TMC MP Kabir Suman staged a protest in Gariahat area to condemn the incident. “It is undesired to humiliate a Bengali at an event to pay tribute to another Bengali,” Suman said.
Trinamool workers also held protests across the state to condemn the incident. In Birbhum’s Dubrajpur, a bike rally was organised in protest against the incident, while tyres were set on fire at Durgapur in Paschim Bardhaman district. In Hooghly’s Baidyabati area, a rally was organised by the ruling party. They said the incident amounts to the humiliation of the people of Bengal.
The Congress and the CPI(M) extended their support to Mamata Banerjee and condemned the incident. State Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury said, “It was not done to show one’s devotion to Lord Ram. It was done to insult Mamata Banerjee. We feel insulted by this as Mamata Banerjee is the chief minister of West Bengal and she is a woman too. We all must respect the dignity of her chair. It was pre-planned to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan to insult her. I am strongly protesting this.”
CPI(M) leader Mohammad Salim said, “It was totally undesired. It must be condemned. At the same time, Mamata Banerjee has turned almost all her government programmes into political events. Her administration meetings are nothing but her party programmes. Now it is a different matter who has learnt these tactics from whom. We will hope that from today she will mend her ways.”
Left Front chairman Biman Bose also condemned the incident, saying it was an insult to the state.
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