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At Netaji event, Mamata refuses to speak after slogans in PM’s presence

Prime Minister Modi, who addressed Banerjee as “behen” (sister), said Netaji would have been proud to see that the country is following his footsteps.

Written by Santanu Chowdhury , Atri Mitra | Kolkata |
Updated: January 24, 2021 6:40:43 pm
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Victoria Memorial event on Saturday. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

With West Bengal headed to assembly elections, rivals TMC and BJP sparred Saturday during celebrations in Kolkata to mark the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

Her speech interrupted by BJP supporters who raised ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, sharing a dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Victoria Memorial, refused to speak, saying they had no right to “humiliate a person after extending an invitation”.

Upset by the slogans, 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.”

Earlier in the day, the Chief Minister had targeted the Centre for declaring Netaji’s birth anniversary as Parakram Divas. Netaji, she said, was a deshbhakt and, therefore, the state pays tribute to him by celebrating his birth anniversary as Deshnayak Divas.

After leading a 6-km march through the city, Banerjee said: “We observed Deshnayak Divas today. Rabindranath Tagore called Netaji Deshnayak. What is this Parakram? You are building a new

Parliament, buying new planes, but why no memorial for Netaji?… If you did not want to consult me, you could have consulted Sugata Bose (Netaji’s grand-nephew, chairman of the Netaji Research Bureau and a former Trinamool MP). If your action is wrong, we will give a reaction.”

Prime Minister Modi, who addressed Banerjee as “behen” (sister), said Netaji would have been proud to see that the country is following his footsteps.

“I often wonder how satisfied Netaji would have been to see the changes in the country today, the New India that is taking shape. How would he have felt had he seen his country self-reliant in the most advanced technologies of the world? How would he have felt to see Indians right at the top in the world’s largest companies, in the field of education and at medical centres?”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Netaji Bhavan. (Source: Twitter/@narendramodi)

“Today, Indian forces have advanced aircraft like the Rafale and the country is manufacturing advanced aircraft like the Tejas. What would have been his feelings on seeing the country’s army so strong, receiving advanced weapons that he so wanted?” Modi said.

“Today, if Netaji had seen how India fought the pandemic, how it readied advanced scientific solutions like the vaccine, what would have been his feelings? If he had seen how India is helping other countries with the vaccine, he would have been filled with pride.”

“The strong India of his dream is before the world today, from the LAC to the LoC. Wherever an attempt is made to challenge India’s sovereignty, India gives a befitting reply,” he said.

“West Bengal needs to play an important role in the quest for Aatmanirbhar Bharat, just like the role that Netaji played for the freedom of the country. Aatmanirbhar Bharat has to be led by Aatmanirbhar Bengal and Sonar Bangla,” he said.

PM Modi along with Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar at Victoria Memorial on Saturday.

Earlier, Modi visited the ancestral house of Netaji at Elgin Road to pay tribute. He also paid floral tributes at Netaji’s statue at the National Library.

Meanwhile, Banerjee’s remarks against the Centre drew criticism from Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.

After unveiling a portrait of Netaji, Dhankhar, who has been at loggerheads with the ruling TMC, said: “Don’t oppose everything just for the sake of opposition.”

Across Kolkata, BJP leaders paid tribute to Netaji, and several events were organised in the districts too.

Banerjee also raised the demand for four capitals in the country. She said Kolkata was the capital of India under the British. “I believe that India must have four rotating capitals… Why should Delhi decide all things? We should have four different capitals in four corners of the country.”

She said the Centre should have declared Netaji’s birth anniversary a national holiday and built a memorial for him. “I protest against the Centre’s decision not to declare Netaji’s birth anniversary as a national holiday… You can name any port after Syama Prasad Mookerjee… we have no objection. But I got Rajiv Gandhi to name Kolkata airport after Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose,” she said.

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