Let us start with counter factuals. Where could be Ram and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose if elections were not there? The simple answer: They would be nowhere. Simply vanished.
Does Lord Ram belong to Bengal? Does Netaji Subhas Bose only belong to Bengal? Is Ram a ‘Bohiragato’ in Bengal? Or is Netaji only a Bengali leader? The answer again is both are pan-India. But they have become Bengal’s property for the next three months. BJP, TMC and even the Left.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls Netaji’s birthday ‘Parakram Divas’, but does not announce it as a national holiday. Following Gurudev Tagore Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee calls it ‘Deshnayak Divas’. The strangest part, even the Left who were traditionally opposed to Bose’s kind of politics wants to call it ‘Deshprem Divas’’. They were one’s who called the 1947 Independence as `jhoota’ – Yeh Azadi Jhoota Hai, Lakho Majdoor Bhookha Hai’. Since then, they abandoned it realizing their errors.
India’s 72nd Republic Day is a tame and routine affair. It cannot be an election issue. Same is the case with Independence Day, 15 August. Last year we had a pandemic Independence. But it seems something more pandemic is awaiting us. Two of our cultural icons and symbol of inspiration have been hijacked for the purpose of Bengal elections in 2021 – Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Lord Sri Ram.
In Bengal `Jai Sri Ram’ is a virtual war cry for BJP against Mamata Banerjee and the ruling Trinamool party. The parochial ‘Jai Bangla’ is its opposite. ‘Jai Hind or Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ are dry slogans used as cushion. Lord Ram and Subhas Bose have been appropriated. Pursuing aggressive nationalism that is transformed to Hindutva BJP started appropriating nation’s cultural heroes and icons from the 80s. It began with the Ram Rath of 1986 and is hence continuing. TMC was born in 1998 and came to power in 2011. It was only after that Bengali ethos took shape.
An ugly scene emerged on 23rd January at a Victoria Memorial programme when awkward ‘Jai Sri Ram’ slogans rented the atmosphere. Some in BJP has blamed its third rung cadres as culprits. Mamata’s cadres are on street to use it as a weapon against Bengal’s ethos/
Misusing government programmes for political purposes is not new in Bengal. It is happening for the past three and half decades. Since the Left Front regime, from 1977 through Mamata’s rule every cultural event organised by subsequent governments have turned into a political platform from appropriation and propaganda. Books highlighting Left Front successes also used to sold at CPM politburo member Biman Bose’s ‘Vidyasagar Mela’ and other left sponsored cultural events.
According to political observers the motive and intention behind the slogan ‘Jai Sri Ram’ was inappropriate as was Mamata Banerjee’s anger against it. It was unbecoming of a politician who had lived in Indian politics for half a century. Overall, it was enough to poison the serene atmosphere of Victoria Memorial and celebration of Netaji’s 125th birth anniversary. For it, we can only blame the upcoming elections. The mist would have cleared without the elections.
With Ram and Bose standing face to face, the lesser mortals have created a paradox or a pandora’s box with them. If elections were not there, slogans and respects would have vanished. But will appropriating Ram and Bose earn votes for BJP and TMC. In 2019 Lok Sabha polls there was Lord Ram. The slogan of ‘Jai Sri Ram’ was enough to tittilate Mamata. She lost 12 seats and came down to 22 from 34 of 2014. In 2021 Bose is added. But can it remove the scars of 2019?
Whatever, it wouldn’t be unwise echoing Samuel Johnson’s quote of 1775 ‘patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel’ which got popularly converted to ‘politics is the last refuge of a scoundrel’. As it seems in Bengal it indeed is.
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