The battle between “Ram” and “Bangla”, until now a war of words between Trinamool Congress and BJP leaders in West Bengal, reached Parliament on Tuesday as MPs from the state, belonging to both sides, got into a shouting match during the oath-taking event.
The 18 new BJP MPs from West Bengal were greeted with loud cheers from the Treasury benches, with members shouting “Jai Shri Ram” every time they walked down to the Well to take oath.
As a comeback, Trinamool MPs took to the “Joy Bangla” slogan, and an occasional “Joy Mamata” as well.
In politically charged Bengal, the TMC accuses the saffron party of using “Jai Shri Ram” as a means to communalise politics – recently a video, circulated widely online, showed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee getting out of her car when BJP supporters shouted the slogan and calling them “outsiders” and criminals, among others.
On Tuesday, the bitter political battle for Bengal was in full display in the Lok Sabha, leading the Chair to intervene a few times.
Almost all BJP MPs from Bengal took oath in Bengali or local dialects. A few, like Balurghat MP Sukanta Majumdar, opted for Sanskrit.
With the BJP slamming the Mamata Banerjee government for ostensibly appeasing the minority community at the cost of Hindus, several TMC MPs chanted Hindu religious shlokas after taking oath. While Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar took a round of the Well shouting “Jai Ma Kaali”, Kalyan Banerjee chanted Sanskrit incantations invoking the goddesses.
“I challenge them (BJP members) to a competition to recite shlokas on Shri Ram – I can beat them to it,” he told the media later.
Dastidar was seen being applauded by Sonia Gandhi. “Mrs Gandhi congratulated me for raising women’s empowerment (issue) in Parliament,” she said later.
When BJP MPs taunted TMC’s Arambagh MP Aparoopa Paddar for taking oath in Hindi and not in Bengali, she replied, “Don’t you know Hindi is the national language?” Congress MPs, even those from Bengal, mostly remained quiet as this duel played out.
Former Trinamool MPs who have been reelected, this time on BJP ticket, Saumitra Khan (Bishnupur) and Arjun Singh (Barrackpore), drew the loudest cheers from the BJP benches. “Mamata Banerjee doesn’t allow Durga Pujas,” Singh was heard commenting even as TMC MPs shouted back: “Joy Bangla”.