TAKING on the Trinamool Congress at its own game again, the BJP has joined the battle with it over Durga Puja — with party president Amit Shah sounding the bugle by flying down to inaugurate a pandal on October 1.
Unlike the Left Front which long-ruled the state, the Trinamool has actively associated itself with Durga Puja since it came to power in 2011. Its senior leaders helm most of the big Durga Puja committees in Kolkata, while many smaller ones are aligned with the ruling party and showcase its schemes.
After Shah, state BJP leaders like Dilip Ghosh, Rahul Sinha and Sayantan Basu inaugurated a host of Durga Pujas in Kolkata and nearby districts. The party is planning to bring out Durga Puja processions, has set up around 3,000 book stalls and over a hundred medical camps outside Puja pandals, will organise Sindur Khela programmes on Bijaya Dashami, the party’s Mahila Morcha is sending greeting cards to households based on the Puja theme, while its slogans, running on radio and television channels, are playing on the theme that the lotus flower is a must for Durga Puja, coining the slogan ‘Padma chara Durga Puja hoy na (Durga Puja is incomplete without the lotus)’.
State BJP general secretary Pratap Banerjee said, “Our outreach programme will begin from Mahalaya and continue till Bijaya Dashami.”
While the Left parties would stay away from Durga Puja, except putting up stalls near pandals selling books with a Communist theme, the Trinamool has worked towards establishing its grip on Durga Puja in the state. Since 2016, the Mamata Banerjee government has held a carnival showcasing over top 50 pandals.
Last year, it announced grants for Durga Puja committees and hiked the amount this year for those pandals organised by women. The government has also given 25 per cent concession on electricity bills for Puja committees and exempted them from Kolkata Municipal Corporation tax. Called to inaugurate Pujas, Banerjee has inaugurated over 60 so far, starting September 27.
Accusing the BJP of trying to “buy Puja with money”, Trinamool leader and Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said, “One cannot capture Durga Puja… Amit Shah can come here as a guest and we will make arrangements accordingly. But never have I seen a Central minister coming to Kolkata to inaugurate a pandal.”
BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said the Trinamool’s attack was a sign of its nervousness. “… They have realised it is no longer a monopoly of their party.”
BJP chief Ghosh said it was the Trinamool that used Durga Puja for gains. “We do not want to compete with anyone. Our intention is to be with the people in this festive season. Several Puja committees have invited us and we have honoured their requests.”