With 2021 state elections a few months away, indigenous political parties like BJP and TMC have become active in giving the so-called `Bengali-ness’ a build through the state’s all time great icons and luminaries.
Both the BJP and TMC have invoked globally famed Bengali icons Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to win at the hustings.
Alongside, Bengal, four states – Kerala, Assam, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu are also going to polls during the year. However, until now, neither has witnessed the invoking of state icons to win elections. It is not that these states do not have national icons, who have contributed in making India great.
In Bengal, the Left parties and the Congress have never bothered to use icons for political purposes. While the CPM led Left Front carried ideological moorings those were only close to non-Indian philosophical and economic visions, Congress had always kept them aside as ‘national cultural heroes’, not to be used for narrow political purposes.
The only noticeable exception in CPM is its politburo member Biman Bose. For long Bose is organizing ‘Vidyasagar Mela’ to celebrate the birth day of the great Bengali Sanskrit scholar, teacher, reformer and grammarian Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.
Vidyasagar became an object of debate between TMC and BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when his bust was vandalized by hooligans inside Vidyasagar College in North Kolkata during union home minister Amit Shah’s road show.
On Swami Vivekananda’s 159th birthday streams of political meetings are organized across the city. While the BJP is leading a procession to celebrate the occasion in North Kolkata until Swamiji’s home in Manicktala Simle area, TMC youth leader and MP Avisekh Banerjee leads a procession from Golpark ot Hazra crossing. Since 1999, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee’s younger brother Kartick Banerjee had been organising Vivek Mela to celebrate Swamiji’s birthday. His sincerity and respect towards Swamiji cannot be linked to others.
The biggest irony, while political parties are eager to publicly celebrate their birthday’s those from the inner fold like Sri Ramakrishna Mission is observing the day in silence and serene music, without a show.
It only shows that Swamiji belongs to them.
It is difficult to say or assert which political party had actually started the game of using icons and luminaries for political gains. Since 2011, Mamata is sincere to instill the lost and forgotten Bengaliness. The 34-year Marxist led Left Front rule had purposely washed away the contribution of Bengali icons. Mamata restored it by playing Tagore songs at every city traffic signal. Her respects for each Bengali icon on their birthday’s are palpable. Her aim was to make Bengali’s feel that they are in Bengal so she introduced Chandi Path and Mahalaya music through traffic signals before the Durga Puja festival.
It could be this kind of sincerity that had enraged Mamata to call Delhi’s BJP leaders as ‘outsiders or Bohiragato’.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah and BJP President J P Nadda are constantly using Gurudev Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Thakur Ramakrishna, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Sri Aurobindo as India’s guiding principles. Mr. Modi, on occasions, even link their connections to Gujarat, his home state.
It will not be out of place to note, since its national formation in April 1980, BJP in Bengal has never used these icons in political campaigns. Driven by RSS, a socio-cultural organization, from behind, BJP has only used them as objects and cultural ‘heroes’ with world eminence. In 1998, BJP was Mamata’s ally. It secured 4.1 per cent votes in the state. By 2019 Lok sabha elections BJP’s vote share has gone up to 40 per cent.
Could it be therefore that BJP is aggressively using them to win the elections of 2021. For the moment, BJP and TMC are locked in a wayward battle, to prove that Swami Vivekananda, is a man from Bengal and who only belongs Bengalis and is only meant for them.
There cannot be a worse kind of travesty of truth more than this observation.
This news article is prepared or accomplished by Nirmalya Mukherjee in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of kolkatatoday.com