Mamata Banerjee declines to speak at Netaji event after chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram'
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday refused to speak at an official event attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mark the beginning of the celebrations of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s 124th birth anniversary after “Jai Shri Ram” slogans were raised just before Banerjee was to start her address.
Bose’s birthday will be observed as Parakram Divas (Bravery Day), the Centre has said, and the year leading up to his 125th birth anniversary will be marked by cultural events dedicated to him.
Banerjee expressed displeasure at Bharatiya Janata Party supporters at Saturday’s event shouting slogans. She said such an “insult” was unacceptable.
With political tension rising in West Bengal, where elections are due in March-April, the tussle between the BJP and Banerjee’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has intensified.
On Saturday, after it was announced that Banerjee will address the programme, “Jai Shri Ram” slogans were raised by some in the audience at the lawn of Victoria Memorial Hall. Prime Minister Modi was present at the event.
“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,” Banerjee said before raising her own slogan, “Jai Hind, Jai Bangla”, meant to project Bengal’s identity.
The BJP said Banerjee’s reaction reflected her mindset of appeasement politics, while the ruling TMC said no one can teach lumpens to be dignified.
Speaking after the West Bengal CM, Modi said Centre’s Atmanirbhar Bharat, or self-reliant India, project would have made Bose proud. “The nation is following the path Netaji showed. I often think how Netaji would feel seeing India surging ahead, its army getting modern weapons and planes such as Rafale guarding the nation. How proud he must have felt seeing India giving vaccines to other nations,” said Modi.
The TMC’s Lok Sabha member and party spokesperson Saugata Roy said: “Modi’s speech made the purpose of his visit before the polls quite apparent. But it misfired. It will have no impact on voters.”
The BJP leadership saw nothing wrong with the slogans. “None of the dignitaries said anything. Why did she lose her cool? It reflects her mindset of appeasement politics. (She) appeases a particular community before elections,” the BJP’s Bengal incharge Kailash Vijayvargiya told PTI.
State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “By raising Jai Sri Ram slogan in a government function, they have not only insulted her, but also the CM of the state, deliberately.”
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- The opposition leader is also scheduled to meet senior TMC minister Firhad Hakim and hold talks about the upcoming Bengal polls.
- TMC and BJP have dismissed the Left rally as insignificant. While the TMC claims CM Mamata Banerjee will return to power for the third time, BJP says the elections are bi-polar and there is no space for the Left.
- The BJP lodged a complaint in the Phoolbagan police station. Senior BJP leaders of the state rushed to the spot to take stock of the situation.
- The TMC asked the EC why the polls could not be held in fewer phases.
- She alleged that the poll panel scheduled the election dates keeping in mind the BJP’s demands.
- The CBI earlier questioned Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Abhishek Banerjee’s wife Rujira Banerjee in the case.
- Besides rallies, the chief minister’s itinerary could include religious stopovers at important places of worship.
- "Modi government only makes false promises, has done nothing to bring down fuel prices," PTI quoted the Bengal chief minister as saying.