Kolkata: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee releases a book during 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, at Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (PTI)
Kolkata: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee releases a book during 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, at Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (PTI)

'Have some dignity': Sloganeering at Netaji event with PM angers Mamata Banerjee

  • “I am grateful to the prime minister that this event is being held in Kolkata. But you have no right to invite someone to a government programme and insult that person," she said.
By HT Correspondent, Kolkata
UPDATED ON JAN 23, 2021 08:56 PM IST

The Centre’s Atmanirbhar Bharat, or self-reliant India project, which focuses on indigenous production, would have made Subhas Chandra Bose proud had he been around, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday evening at a programme held at the Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata to mark the 125 birth anniversary of the iconic freedom fighter.

“The nation is following the path Netaji showed,” PM Modi said.

“Netaji said if you are true to yourself you cannot be wrong to the world. We have to make zero-defect products for the world… I often think how Netaji would feel seeing India surging ahead, its army getting modern weapons, planes like Rafale guarding the nation, vaccines being produced in India. How proud he must have felt seeing India giving vaccines to other nations,” the prime minister said.

The government programme marked the launch of the year-long celebrations to be held across India till Bose’s 125th birthday next year. The cultural event was however not spared by the rising tension between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) ahead of the assembly polls due in March-April.

When chief minister Mamata Banerjee rose to address the audience before PM Modi, BJP workers, who had gathered on the sprawling campus of the Victoria Memorial Hall in the Maidans, raised the slogans of Jai Sri Ram, at which Banerjee had reacted in the past, while several even booed at her.

The compère of the show had to ask the crowd to calm down and let Banerjee, who was allotted five minutes, to speak.

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A peeved Banerjee walked up to the dais and said, “I feel a government programme must have some dignity. This is not a political programme but a government programme and it is for the public and all political parties.”

“I am grateful to the prime minister that this event is being held in Kolkata. But you have no right to invite someone to a government programme and insult that person. In protest, I am not saying anything. Jai Hind, Jai Bangla,” said Banerjee. The chief minister, however, stayed till the end of the event and took her seat before PM Modi. They were also seen talking.

All political parties, including the CPI(M), and eminent intellectuals of Kolkata condemned the raising of the Jai Sri Ram slogan at the event. Some BJP leaders tried to play down the incident while others supported the party supporters.

At the event, Modi released a collection of Bose’s letters, two commemorative coins and a stamp. He also felicitated veterans of the Indian National Army that Bose led against the British Indian army. The veterans included Nayek Lalti Ram, Dr BN Pandey and INA Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon’s daughter-in-law.

In his 30-minute speech in Hindi, PM Modi paid homage to Bose. He also said a few lines in Bengali.

“Today I bow before the sacred land of Bengal that brought up little Subhas and taught him to grow through sacrifice. This land gave the country its national song and anthem,” said Modi who was on a one-day visit to the city.

He named eminent social reformers, scientists and educationists and even former President Pranab Mukherjee, who was honoured with the Bharat Ratna, the nation’s highest civilian award by the BJP government.

“Netaji’s sacrifice and perseverance is the source of the energy for today’s youth. We want generations to remember him. We have decided that programmes will be held across the nation. Every year, his birthday will be celebrated as Parakram Diwas (day of valour),” said Modi.

“When the country is surging ahead in the spirit of 'Make in India', the teachings of Netaji become important because he travelled across the world to create awareness about the nation and to raise an army. He set up the Rani Jhansi Regiment when women did not enjoy such rights. Netaji showed that the British empire, where the sun never set, could be defeated,” said Modi.

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“Netaji said no power in the world can put India in chains as long as it is independent. Netaji used to treat poverty, illiteracy, disease and lack of scientific innovation as the main problems. Today, our nation is striving to make women and farmers self-reliant and strengthening education infrastructure. We are introducing a new national education policy,” said Modi.

Union culture and tourism minister Prahlad Singh Patel was also present at the Victoria Memorial Hall. “Netaji probably did not get the honour he deserves. Today, events are also being held at Cuttack in Odisha where Netaji was born and at Haripura in Gujarat, where he was elected president of the Congress party for the first time,” Patel said.

The prime minister's plane landed at Kolkata airport around 3 pm. He reached the RCTC ground in the Maidan area in a chopper and his motorcade reached Netaji Bhawan around 3.30 pm. Crowds had gathered at several places to have a glimpse of the prime minister.

After visiting Netaji Bhawan, Bose's residence which is now a museum, PM Modi went to the National Library where an international seminar will be held. After spending around 30 minutes at the library campus, the PM Modi's motorcade left for the Victoria Memorial Hall where musical programmes and a son et lumiere on Bose was organised.

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