Updated: January 30, 2021 8:16:57 am
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to speak amid ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans at a government of India function in Kolkata to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose can work in the TMC’s favour as it ties in with the party’s “insider-outsider” plank for the upcoming Assembly election, said party leaders.
The leaders, however, admitted this was a “sensitive issue”, and it is important not to give the impression that the TMC government is “against the Jai Shri Ram” slogan per se. Instead, they said, the party wants to underline that the slogan is being pushed into the lexicon of Bengal politics at the “behest of outsiders who do not understand Bengal”.
Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, Chief Whip of TMC in Rajya Sabha, said TMC looked at the matter not only as an insult to the Chief Minister, but also to the legacy of Bose.
“It is unbecoming of a Ram bhakt. If someone was to raise some other slogan on Ram Navami, how would they feel? According to me, on the 125th birthday of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, as a mark of respect to Netaji and soldiers of Azad Hind Fauj who laid down their lives for the freedom of our motherland, the slogan that should be raised is Jai Hind,” Ray said.
“In such functions only invitees are allowed. Here the chief guest was the Prime Minister. The dignity of the Prime Minister should have been reckoned with. I have no objection with people raising ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans anywhere, or any other occasion. But on a particular day when the nation is paying homage to Netaji and INA, how were these people allowed? It has been said that they were followers of an outsider BJP leader. Our apprehension that the outsider bargis are coming to Bengal to create unrest, this is a glaring example of how they have started creating trouble,” Ray said.
To play up their ‘outsider’ plank, TMC has been referring to BJP’s as bargis — a section of troops during the Maratha invasion of Bengal who indulged in plundering.
BJP sources admitted that the slogans at the event were “inappropriate” and that they had given TMC a political tool. But while there is discomfort within, BJP has publicly questioned why Banerjee has a problem with Jai Shri Ram slogans.
TMC leaders argued that “religious slogans” were not a part of Bengal’s political history before the rise of BJP. “If you go through the elections from 1952 till today, such religious slogans were never raised by any party. They are bringing the culture of north India here… This slogan is alien to Bengal’s politics, Ray said.
Party sources, however, said they do not want to fall into the “trap” laid by the BJP. “It is clear that BJP is using the slogan as a larger tactic to paint the TMC as anti Hindu. That is a trap the party is aware of. We are not against Jai Shri Ram. But Bengal has slogans of its own — Jai Durga, Jai Maa Kali. At every rally, our leaders say Joy Bangla. That encapsulates Bengal and has generated a feeling of pride among Bengalis. It is a fine political line we will pursue,” a party leader said.
Ray said, “Ram Navami is observed in Bengal in many areas. It is correct that the biggest festivals are Durga Puja, Kali Puja and Saraswati Puja. But we are not against any other puja because Bengal is mini-India.”
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