Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee is all set to raise Bengal’s devotional quotient in the last lap to the crucial state Assembly elections. Mamata’s residence at Harish Mukherjee Road has been flooded with requests for inaugural visits, with more than 300 puja organizers from different parts of Bengal pleading for her presence.
“To date, more than 300 letters from different puja committees have arrived. More are pouring in every day. Requests are also coming from far-flung districts like Nadia. They all want Mamata Banerjee to inaugurate or simply be present at their pandals,” said Ratan Mukherjee, personal assistant to Mamata Banerjee.
“We’re filing all the requests. Mamata will sort them out and prioritise her visits. She will take the final decision and then we’ll fix her itinerary,” Mukherjee added.
Trinamool leaders expect requests for Mamata Banerjee’s presence at pandals to approach the thousand mark. Last year she received about 150 invitations.
In Bengal Durga Puja in mid October offers the biggest public contact as this autumn festival has almost turned into a social festival, often transcending religious barriers.
After the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, when Mamata was the lone Trinamool MP in the Lok Sabha, only a dozen such requests were received. As her popularity soared after Singur and Nandigram, the organizers began queuing up.
“She’s very religious and makes it a point to visit puja pandals, even small ones, whenever she finds the time,” said Madan Mitra, party leader. The entire Trinamool party is braced to exploit the upcoming public relations bonanza and reach out to a million voters. Apart from its leaders patronizing their own pujas, the party mouthpiece Jago Bangla (Arise Bengal) will set up hundreds of stalls in Kolkata and the districts.
The Left is already making jibes. “They’ve taken their cue from the NDA parties during their long association. They’re doing it for short-term political gains. The stand of the Left parties is that we will not exploit religious functions for political gains,” said Mohammed Selim, CPI(M) central committee member.