Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday said his government would build a “grand statue” of Ishwar Chand Vidyasagar at the Vidyasagar College in Kolkata. His comments come two days after an existing bust of the social reformer was vandalised in clashes between BJP and Trinamool Congress workers during BJP president Amit Shah’s roadshow in the city.
Speaking at a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Mau this morning, Modi said, “Our government, dedicated to the vision of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, will set up a grand statue of panchdhatu (five metals) at the same spot.” Accusing the TMC of breaking the statue, Modi said those responsible should be punished. TMC leader Derek O’Brien responded to Modi’s proposal, calling him a “pathological liar”.
Responding to Modi’s offer, Banerjee said Bengal does not need money from the BJP, it has enough resources to rebuild the Vidyasagar statue.
Addressing a rally here, Banerjee said, “Modi has promised to rebuild the Vidyasagar statue in Kolkata. Why should we take their (BJP’s) money, Bengal has enough resources.”
Among footage that emerged from the site, one clip shows a group of youths, some wearing saffron shirts and at least one sporting a saffron turban, vandalising a bust of Vidyasagar outside the Vidyasagar College hostel. Another shows a separate group inside the campus hurling large stones across the wall at men wearing saffron shirts and turbans, carrying BJP flags.
Vidyasagar is among Bengal’s tallest cultural icons, and a key figure in the Bengal Renaissance. He initiated pathbreaking reform in traditional upper caste Hindu society — he fought for remarriage of widows and abolition of Sati.
Banerjee has claimed that “Bengal is under attack” from outsiders brought in by the BJP, and called the episode a “planned criminal and communal conspiracy”.
Amid the war of words, the Election Commission Wednesday, in an unprecedented decision, invoked Article 324 of the Constitution to curtail election campaigning in West Bengal by 20 hours. The poll body cited the “safety and security” of voters in the state while announcing that campaigning in all forms would end at 10 pm on Thursday in nine constituencies — Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Jadavpur, Diamond Harbour, South and North Kolkata. These go to polls in the last phase of the Lok Sabha polls on Sunday, May 19.